BASH’D! A GAY RAP OPERA, created and performed by Chris Craddock and Nathan Cuckow with composer Aaron Macri and director Ron Jenkins, just about lifts the roof off at GCTC. First produced in 2006, it played various festivals, ran for three months Off-Broadway and is now touring Canada. This gay love story performed entirely in rap also attempts, according to the writers, “to flip the perception of rap music on its head and return it to its political roots.”
BASH’D! is loosely based on the spike in hate crimes during the gay marriage debate of 2005. It tells the story of Dillon and Jack, one from the city and the other who went through the trauma of coming out in a small town. Filled with humor, satire and quiet touching moments, it follows these two amazingly high-energy performers through their lives. They play multiple characters, but there’s never confusion as to who’s speaking.
There’s a very funny scene in a gay club that flows smoothly into the gentle scene of their first meeting. The wedding scene is great fun and leads into a wonderfully moving scene between the newlyweds. After a scene in a support group the play turns more serious, leading up to its powerful ending.
Played on an almost bare stage with a black backdrop, the set consists only of two stools with pink cushions. The two men are dressed in white with pink headgear and their only props are two pairs of angel’s wings. Kerim Cetinel makes terrific use of side-lighting and tightly focused beams through occasional clouds of smoke. I defy anyone to keep their foot from tapping or head from bobbing to Aaron Macri’s score. I almost got a stiff neck.
Mr. Craddock and Mr. Cuckow do an extraordinary job of portraying Dillon, Jack and the other characters in their lives. They can both turn on a dime from hilarious satire to believable depth of feeling. With a running time of 70 minutes and no intermission, I’d be curious to know how many pounds they burn off in each performance.
With its strong language, sexual allusions and mature subject matter, BASH’D! A GAY RAP OPERA is not for everyone. But if, like me, you appreciate innovative theatre with riveting performances that make you both think and feel, give it a try. One piece of advice – be sure to bring your ears!
On a scale of one to five the production of BASH’D! A GAY RAP OPERA at GCTC gets five solar panels. For North Country Public Radio, I’m Connie Meng.