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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Gay Actors, Straight Parts, and the "Flamboyance" Factor

Posted by on Tue, Jan 10, 2012 at 3:28 PM

Over at Seattle Gay Scene, theater critic—and regular Slog commenter—Michael Strangeways is seven kinds of pissed off about Misha Berson's review of Balagan's Spring Awakening, and particularly her hit on Jerick Hoffer, also known as the ridiculously talented and beloved drag character Jinkx Monsoon.

As he quotes from Berson's review:

Bu a dissident note here is Hoffer’s overly flamboyant portrayal of Moritz, a luckless boy plagued by the shame and guilt of his erotic attraction to a female piano teacher. That longing isn’t evident in Hoffer’s diva showiness, which seems more suited to the drag rock musical “Hedwig and the Angry Itch” than the world of “Spring Awakening.”

That's real rage—when one journalists quotes another and leaves in the typos. Then Strangeways lets fly:

I’m not that overly sensitive to cries of media homophobia and god knows I’m not a fan of being overly politically correct, but this shitty review/trashing of Jerick Hoffer really pisses the hell out of me... basically, Misha Berson is saying: “Jerick Hoffer is too gay and faggy to play this part and he should stick to drag.”

Strangeways goes on to demand Berson apologize to Hoffer, gay actors, the whole LGBTQ community, and journalism itself. You can read his screed, her response, and his response to her response over here.

I didn't see this production (saw the touring version), but there's a fair amount of flamboyance in all the boys, no matter what their sexual orientation. None of those frustrated, confused, lustful 19th-century German boys are exactly paragons of butch reserve:

Which makes total sense, since the original was written by Frank Wedekind—whose ideas about sexuality and gender would still curl certain Republicans' hair. (And, as we all know, there's no such thing as a "flamboyant" straight guy.)

One more review of this Spring Awakening, by our own Anna Minard, comes out in tomorrow's paper.

What horribly controversial things will she say? Did she think the performers weren't flamboyant enough?

There's only one way to find out.


Comments (23) RSS

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Cato the Younger Younger 1
Wow, talk about having a fuse set off in your tampon.
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on January 10, 2012 at 3:34 PM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 2
Oh and it totally puts the violence against gays in Nigeria and the bullying to death of American gays and lesbians in perspective as well.
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on January 10, 2012 at 3:35 PM · Report this
Dougsf 3
We certainly wouldn't want anyone gaying-up our musical theater, would we?
Posted by Dougsf on January 10, 2012 at 3:43 PM · Report this
Um... I saw it last night, it was really great, but Hoffer didn't play the piano student. He was outstanding as a straight boy—entirely believable. But he didn't play the piano student.
Posted by Dan Savage on January 10, 2012 at 3:43 PM · Report this
danewood 5
I saw this last night as well and I don't know what Misha saw in his performance that was flamboyant. A little overwrought at times, maybe (but so is the writing) but nothing was inherently flamboyant. I think Michael Strangeways has a legitimate complaint. Does Misha have a drag bias?
Posted by danewood on January 10, 2012 at 3:49 PM · Report this
Dan, Misha notes that error of hers in the response Brendan links to as well. But the goof that makes me giggle is everyone repeating "Hedwig and the Angry Itch".
Posted by gloomy gus on January 10, 2012 at 3:52 PM · Report this
Also, "dissident" note? Like, it was suppressed by a political regime? Is it possible she meant "dissonant"?
Posted by Milton Babbitt on January 10, 2012 at 4:02 PM · Report this
Tracy 8
@6 You beat me to it. Although her mix-up makes me wonder if she was even critiquing the correct actor. Maybe she really had an issue with the man playing Georg, instead.

It's a fantastic production. I thought Hoffer's Moritz took some interesting choices...not what I expected, but he presented such a wrathful pain, it was mesmerizing. If anyone is considering seeing this show, buy tickets ASAP. They sold out all 4 of last week's shows, with standing room tickets, too, and are on pace to do the same this weekend (it's final 4 shows)

Broadway World waxes rhapsodic about Hoffer "And let’s talk a little about Hoffer. I’ve now seen him at Balagan, Seattle Shakes, Theater Off Jackson, and even Teatro ZinZanni. He just keeps popping up everywhere and in a wide variety of roles. And all I can say is, he makes me angry. No one should be this young and yet this incredibly talented. No matter the role he’s in he manages to completely disappear inside it and turn it into a bit of theatrical excellence you cannot take your eyes off. And the jealous part of me would absolutely hate him if the rest of me didn’t so much love watching him. He’s kind of one of those unsung gems of Seattle theater and I for one intend to start the singing about him."

Read more:…
Posted by Tracy on January 10, 2012 at 4:11 PM · Report this
seandr 9
Suggesting that an actor is unconvincing as a het male is not homophobic.

I think Hoffer is very talented, but based on what I've seen him do, he wouldn't be my first choice for the role of Stanley in Streetcar Named Desire, unless I was doing a satire.
Posted by seandr on January 10, 2012 at 4:12 PM · Report this
@8, what a fantastic rave. Woof. Must go....
Posted by gloomy gus on January 10, 2012 at 4:18 PM · Report this
@9, Hoffer fits the bill a helluva lot better than Rock Hudson ever would have, and he'd have been a killer Stanley. Sexuality has no bearing on talent. Being a 21st century american is a bigger hurdle than sexuality, and look at all the dead Europeans we keep producing.
Posted by Garth B on January 10, 2012 at 4:24 PM · Report this
9: Most hetero actors couldn't pull off Stanley. Could Ben Stiller? The guy who played Malcolm in Malcolm in the Middle? Russel Brand? No and no and no.

The part Hoffer plays isn't a testosterone-dripping straight boy thug. It's an adolescent, a nervous and neurotic schoolboy. Hoffer was amazing.
Posted by Dan Savage on January 10, 2012 at 4:27 PM · Report this
prompt 13
@12 Exactly. Moritz is supposed to be a schoolboy completely overwhelmed by the concept of sexuality. Perhaps the reviewer has simply never seen the show before.
Posted by prompt on January 10, 2012 at 4:36 PM · Report this
Maybe they should have cast Tim Tebow.
Posted by bobbo on January 10, 2012 at 4:58 PM · Report this
Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In 15
Your first sentence reads like a high school hallway conversation. "I heard that Jenny was saying that Britney was talking about Jared's talk with Tamora & how she said that she said that she was saying how it wasn't true. OMG! She is such a *bitch*!"
Posted by Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In on January 10, 2012 at 4:58 PM · Report this
seandr 16
@12: Most hetero actors couldn't pull off Stanley.

Right - actors have limits to their range. Even gay actors.

Look, I'm just saying that if for whatever reason - range, poor direction, an off night - Hoffer brought a little too much Jinkx Monsoon to the role of Moritz on that particular performance, it's not homophobic to point that out.
Posted by seandr on January 10, 2012 at 5:10 PM · Report this
bedipped 17
It's a little bit of old school Seattlewood Confidential.
Posted by bedipped on January 10, 2012 at 5:15 PM · Report this
michael strangeways 18
No, it's fine if Ms Berson didn't care for Mr. Hoffer's performance. Art is subjective. I objected to her use of inflammatory words to deride his performance. It was a personal attack on the actor based on his "flamboyant" performance style. Misha Berson apparently and rather quickly must have realized she stepped over a line with her words. She retracted her original statement, and her many errors in that statement, and rewrote the paragraph after TWO people complained of the verbiage. Good for her. All writers make mistakes. Every single writer in the world, and every single commenter on a blog thread has realized, after writing something, "Oh, shit...I just wrote something stupid." You acknowledge it, try to correct the damage, move on and hopefully learn something from it.

And, putting aside all this hoopla, you should really go see "Spring Awakening". It's a great show with amazing performances.

Also: I demand someone stage "Hedwig and the Angry Itch". Maybe it could be a fundraiser for the STD Clinic.
Posted by michael strangeways on January 10, 2012 at 6:29 PM · Report this
thatsnotright 19
It is "dissonant note", not "dissident note"; anyone who doesn't know that shouldn't be writing reviews.
Posted by thatsnotright on January 10, 2012 at 8:40 PM · Report this
Jubilation T. Cornball 20
God what a bunch of hullabaloo...and typos. It's like "Seattle Gay News: The Muscilal" (typo intended).
Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball on January 10, 2012 at 11:25 PM · Report this
Holy shit. I wasn't aware that "flamboyant" has been stricken from the English language or perhaps reserved for usage by the elites who can afford it. Thanks for the update, Mr. Stringeways.
Posted by BLUE on January 11, 2012 at 6:57 AM · Report this
Fried Worms 22
Such an overreaction. Completely silly. Berson was stating an opinion that the performance of a particular character wasn't believably hetero, not that the actor himself wasn't allowed to play hetero because he is or might be [too] gay. Agree with her or not. Say you think he did an awesome job or bring up the argument about awkward young lover like some people here did. But to call it homophobic... This is the gay-rights version of PETA. Silly, outlandish, and completely unproductive to legit issues of LGBT rights.

strangeways needs to get over himself.
Posted by Fried Worms on January 11, 2012 at 10:05 AM · Report this
Interestingly, the clip from the Broadway version shows hetero, leading-man Melchior as played by... Jon Groff, a fantastically talented out and proud gay actor (also known for playing Jesse St. James on Glee).
Posted by Kaliann on January 11, 2012 at 1:21 PM · Report this

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