IN THE LAST 20 years, every gay man with an issue, a rudimentary grasp of the English language, and a typewriter has sat down to write a script or screenplay. This has given birth to a genre of theater that can only be described as the Gay Play. As the 1990s come to a close, the Gay Play has become, with few exceptions, an anachronism, a cliché, a painfully obvious attempt to capitalize on an over-milked societal marginalization and a waning epidemic -- not to mention unbearably tiresome and repetitive. I have come to resent and loathe the Gay Play. If I am forced to watch one more lisping, heroin addicted cross-dresser give a weepy and emotionally manipulative monologue about their tortured adolescence, their T-cell count, and the unfairness of it all, I am going to vomit. I swear.

Which brings us to Michael Whistler's new one-man show, The Faggot Museum. Far from being just another sensationalistic and exploitative play by a fag with a typewriter and a sack full of issues, The Faggot Museum takes the hackneyed and predictable Gay Play to a refreshing and intelligent new level. With exquisite comic timing and disturbingly accurate perceptions, Michael Whistler explores not homosexuality per se, but a breed -- perhaps a dying one -- of man known ostensibly as faggot.

Through a myriad of monologues Whistler plumbs the psyches of men who embody the faggot stereotype. These are the prim, overly articulate men who lead quietly desperate lives and find courage, hope, and catharsis in antique French crockery, show tunes, and the forbidden contents of their mother's costume jewelry boxes. These are the overlooked, sensitive souls who smiled too often, spoke with too much enthusiasm, and knew all the words to The King and I. We recognize them from our childhood in an uncle, a neighbor, a high school English teacher, ourselves. Whistler explores these souls compassionately and with sublime wit before ensconcing them forever in his Faggot Museum, where they become objects of hope and inspiration to a new generation of faggots. Keen witted, big hearted, seamless, and above all, honest, The Faggot Museum may just be the yardstick by which all proceeding Gay Plays are measured. And improved.

Support The Stranger