Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence, Roddy McDowell and Elizabeth Taylor, Elton John and Princess Diana -- the roster of gay men and the women who adore them (or fags and their hags, if you will) is long and prestigious. Yet this relationship seldom gets the searching beam of theatrical interest. Consider Torch Song Trilogy, Jeffrey or way back to The Boys in the Band -- you might as well have been watching Mr. Roberts for all the insight into the female persona. No more -- writer/performers Joe Salvatore and Kate Nugent have taken this culturally marginal but emotionally resonant bond and crafted a bright and entertaining two-person show. fag/hag, presented by That Uppity Theatre Company's AC/DC Series at the St. Marcus Theatre, trots out every stereotype, wraps it in a long fuse and then gleefully lights a match.
fag/hag offers vignettes, pantomimes and comic bits, mostly drawn from real interviews in the tradition of Studs Terkel or, more recently, Anna Deveare Smith. Program notes explain how "the audio tape becomes an important tool in the rehearsal process as we work to capture the original rhythms of speech used by the subjects." In the performance of fag/hag I saw, the verbal tics (word repetition and uncertain phrasing) were still being smoothed out, but the information was usually interesting and frequently entertaining. However, the creators might consider identifying each speaker with more information than name and age, as well as reordering some of the information. (Can the coming-out stories come earlier? Seems to make more sense in the context of the show.) And where is historical context for these fabulous friendships? Plenty of folks have written about it, some at great length, like Vita Sackville-West, who married her fag.
At just 70 minutes, however, fag/hag is still a promising work-in-progress searching for a middle ground between documentary (monologues) and comedy revue (amusing but easy-target phone-questionnaire bits and pantomime). My vote is for more of the latter: As Two Tons of Fun's mid-'80s disco powerhouse "It's Raining Men" played, the two actors mimed the words and prepared for a big evening out. Salvatore clearly had an exciting night ahead, bouncing like an eager pugilist, slapping on aftershave with gusto. Nugent's character was dreading it: She wearily applied cosmetics and shot exhausted moues at the audience. This mime show established the fag/hag dynamic quicker than any other segment and undoubtedly arose from the clever and insightful brains of the two authors rather than their not-always-articulate interview subjects. More will please us more, please.