Review: My Dinner With Casey Donovan (The Cabaret Company)

My Dinner With Casey Donovan

My Dinner with Casey Donovan is a ‘hilarious gay romp’ on stage at the Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto

The Cabaret Company’s current production of Sky Gilbert’s My Dinner With Casey Donovan playing at Theatre Passe Muraille is a hilarious gay romp mired in the queer sexual politics of the 1970s. What else would you expect from a play in which a nerdy fan boy invites his favorite pornstar to dinner with his parents?

I had a lot of fun seeing this show, although I found it to be a little uneven. The first two scenes, which cover fan boy Calvin preparing to bring Casey to dinner and the dinner itself, felt much more fresh and current than the final scene in which we see Casey’s dark side that stems from his fear of being perceived as sexually adventurous at work.

The opening scene perfectly captures the modern relationship between fans and celebrities by placing it in the more simplified context of 1973. Calvin’s fan letter feels like any social media interaction a fan might have with a celebrity today. It is fraught with sexual tension and insecurity about crossing any of Casey’s boundaries. And Casey’s response to it feels like an appropriate modern celebrity response. It’s a nice little spoof that worked excellently for me.

The dinner itself is an exemplary example of a dinner party comedy. Calvin’s parents who cautiously use double-speak to inquire about their closeted son’s new “friend” is a glorious campy delight. That scene uses the familiar situation in which everyone knows the character is gay but no one wants to say it to it’s fullest potential.

Elley-Ray (who plays Calvin’s mother Rita Limehouse) is hilarious as the Midwest hostess clearly under the spell of Casey Donovan. She also plays the overbearing mother to perfect hilarity.

Nathaniel Bacon (Casey) and Michael De Rose (Calvin) are both charming as their respective characters. Bacon has the confident swagger that makes it easy for the audience to understand why Calvin is obsessed with Casey when he first appears on stage, and also has the subtle emotional depth that signals to the audience that all might not be well with his character from the start. He’s also an uncanny Casey Donovan look-alike, which doesn’t hurt.

De Rose’s Calvin is neurotic to a fault and De Rose plays that for some of the night’s biggest laughs. The way he plays the scene in which Calvin receives a blowjob from Casey makes it as funny as any scene from American Pie or Porky’s. He goes all out with his bumbling, physical comedy and that keeps the audience in stitches through the entire play.

The only thing that didn’t work for me was the queer sexual politics of the play’s final scenes. When Calvin jokes about telling “the guys at work” about getting a blowjob from Casey, Casey flips a switch and becomes a terrifying monster afraid of having his secret sexual adventurousness out. Although his fears that crossing-over from gay porn into “legitimate” acting are somewhat founded, I just don’t think that his fear of being seen as promiscuously gay resonates very well in 2015.

Despite the play having what I thought was a weak ending, I really truly enjoyed this play. The sum of the play’s comedic elements outweighs the few flaws it has. It’s definitely worth checking out!

Details

  • My Dinner With Casey Donovan is playing until March 22 at Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Avenue)
  • Shows run Wednesday to Sunday at 7:30pm, with an additional matinee on Sundays at 2pm
  • Ticket prices range from $20 – $24, with PWYC on Sundays, and are available online, or through the box office at 416-504-7529

Photo of Ralph Small, Nathaniel Bacon, Elley-Ray, and Michael De Rose by Seanna Kennedy.

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