Buddies in Bad times founder, Sky Gilbert, is back with a comical gender-bending take on family and how it shapes one’s life. The Terrible Parents sees well  established actors Edward Roy and Gavin Crawford reunited on stage as the parents, and introduces emerging actors Robin Sharpe and Katie Sky as the children. Both Crawford and Roy had leading roles in previous Glibert plays, “The Situationists” and “A Few Brittle Leaves”, respectively.

The story premise is a behind the scenes look into the Johnson’s family’s seemingly perfect 1960s life. Behind Dad’s perfect job and mother’s perfect coiffure, the children endure unspeakable, yet oddly hilarious, horrors that seem almost unreal. The mother, Amelia seems far too intimate with her son Cecil, while Cecil’s sister Odette is forced into early plastic surgery. After falling on her head, Amelia transforms into a completely different and sexually dangerous mother– a loose-living party girl in love with a drunken, abusive salesman. Somehow her children survive, but both are left with emotional scars.

The stage setting and overall production seemed a bit clunky, especially between scene changes and the abrupt starting and stopping of music throughout. There was even one point where it was difficult to hear the cast from certain areas of the theatre, due to the loud music emanating from the speakers above the seats, and other times difficult to see the performers on stage that seemed hidden off to the side. It should be noted that there is a difference between effect, and affect.

The 90 minute-ish show is split in two, with an intermission between. The first half is all Crawford and Roy, father and mother, while the children Sharpe and Sky seem left in the shadows acting as mere puppets. As the play transitions to the second half, Sharp and Sky have grown up to be young adults, and their stage presence follows them in a more mature acting direction, with both giving well-received performances. However, it remains the powerful duo of Crawford and Roy who provide the strongest roles, with witty one-liners, comedic ramblings, and overall finesse. It’s interesting to observe what some members of the audience laugh at, while others gasp or cringe. A sure sign of effective playwriting.

The Terrible Parents marks a change in Sky Gilbert’s work, along with his 7th novel, “Sad Old Faggot” (to be released in fall of 2016). Both works are his first forays into the relatively new and controversial form that has been named creative non-fiction, or fictional autobiography.The show program has a statement from Gilbert that reads, “The Terrible Parents is dedicated to my mother. I I was more earnest, I would have named the play ‘The Tragic Story of My Mother’. I have written about my mother in ‘The Mommiad and I’, and I can’t seem to stop. For all her faults, I can’t stop loving her – and missing her too.”

So while this play is quite personal to the director himself, the overall scenario can be played out in many different forms, depending on the type of nuclear family you were raised in. Anything that Gilbert produces for Buddies is worth seeing, given his history with this fantastic queer establishment. The opportunity to mix and mingle with fellow theatre goers, and often the actors themselves,  afterward in the licensed cabaret is something only an intimate theatre-going experience like Buddies can offer. TIP: Be sure to try the new Buddies Brew.

The Cabaret Company produces the work of Sky Gilbert, which is personal, immediate, controversial, political, dangerous, sexual and queer. Written and directed by Sky Gilbert, with Gavin Crawford, Ed Roy, Robin Sharp, and Katie Sly. Sky also had a street named after him in Toronto— Sky Gilbert Lane — in 2015..

Now playing until April 17
Runs Wed-Sat 8pm; Sun 2:30pm
Tickets PWYC – $37
Box Office:416-975-8555 or
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander Street, Toronto, ON

Be sure to mark your calendars for the final show of the 2015/16 season happening May 21 to June 12, 2016.

Body Politic is a drama piece about the birth, life, and eventual demise of Canada’s first gay newspaper (1971-1987).  An investigative and historical retrospective of queer Canadian culture and history.

 

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.