Let’s Not Beat Each Other To Death, playing as a part of SummerWorks‘ Special Presentation Series, destroyed me (in a very good way). An electronic cabaret dance party about the unceasing violence targeting the LGBTQ community, the show successfully combined all the elements of good social justice theatre with an especially unforgettable, heartfelt performance from writer/performer Stewart Legere.
In the first act, we encounter Legere as the Boatman of the River Styx, reverberating voice and all. He then alternated between the Boatman, who muses wryly on the nature of death, and three LGBTQ youths who recount their experiences with hate and violence. A boy was beaten to death, two girls were stomped on the chest, and another man is now paralyzed after being stabbed. The monologues are connected by a number of catchy electronic pop songs sung by Legere.
Legere pulls off some great character work in the first act, including a surprisingly accurate rendering of a teenage girl that was thankfully not exaggerated or gratuitous. The writing was extremely thought-provoking and the performance was greatly complimented by the innovative projection and lighting work. (They created rain without getting any of us wet!) A little quibble though: sometimes the volume was too loud and the lighting shone directly into people’s eyes.
As much as I liked the first act, the second act — a eulogy — was a nice reprieve. The lights came up, Legere shrugged off his cloak, walked over to a keyboard upstage and sang a song; which was then rightfully overshadowed by horrific images of violence against LGBTQ youths that were projected onto the walls beside the stage. The stripped down production values also infused a sense of genuine rawness into the second act, as if Legere needed to cast off the theatricality of the first act and speak to us as himself.
Indeed, the most affecting part of Legere’s piece for me was his monologue after the eulogy song. The monologue was about the struggle of wanting to be a good person while feeling so much anger towards the world for being capable of such violent hate. I cannot even begin to imagine what my LGBTQ friends go through on a daily basis, but as an overweight woman of colour, I could relate to his overwhelming feelings of anger and frustration.
Throughout the show, Legere and director Christian Barry proved that they have a talent for achieving balance. The second act balanced out the first. The other-worldly tone of the Boatman is balanced by the grounded cadence of the victims. And after all that we’ve heard, they knew we needed some musical healing, and so, the third act is an honest-to-goodness dance party complete with a super cool DJ.
But beyond all the flashing lights, I left Let’s Not Beat Each Other To Death with two very important messages: We should be frustrated and tired of the hate and violence that continues to target the LGTBQ community. And it is time for us to act with love instead of hate.
- Saturday August 15th 9:00 PM
- Sunday August 16th 9:00 PM
Individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Live Art Series tickets are free – $20. Tickets are available online at http://summerworks.ca, by phone at 888-328-8384, Monday – Friday 8:30am-5pm, in person at the SummerWorks Info Booth – located at SummerWorks Central Box Office – located at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St). Open August 4-16 from 10am-7pm (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee).
Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows.
Photo provided by the company.