James Gangl, bless him, is perfectly honest: he wants to find a girlfriend. He’s aware that he is not, in the classic sense, A Catch, and so – like many of us with more charm than grace and more brains than looks – he has decided to work what he’s got. In Gangl’s case, aided by director Chris Gibbs and a few dark weeks on the Theatre Passe Muraille schedule, what he has is a really, really good story.
Gangl’s show is built on the story of his failed love affair, and it’s full of the kind of complexities and reverses and bewildering, lust-driven decisions that such stories classically comprise. There’s a girl, he likes her too much, then they talk, they don’t, they do again, they don’t again. If it sounds like the seventh grade it is, except for the cheap beer and dry humping – oh, actually, those too. Gangl also draws in a strong narrative arc about his Catholicism, which is not something I would have thought to rate by degree until I heard he went to 7am mass every day until he was eighteen years old.
(It’s worth mentioning that Gangl’s mother, sitting right across the aisle from me with her pocketbook in a white-knuckled grip, watched her son’s show about his sexual and masturbatory escapades without apparent dismay. When I asked her later how she’d liked it, she reported that she was proud and that she thought him a very good actor, even though the content was not to her taste. Fair enough, Mrs. Gangl. Fair enough.)
Sex, Religion, and Other Hangups works in part because it is exactly what it is – a funny story, told with charm, making the most of self-deprecating humor, neither afraid of nor relying too heavily on the gross parts. There’s no attempt to make it an Oedipal allegory or a hero myth or any other such thing. A beer before the show will not dull your ability to appreciate the subtle nuances; three probably wouldn’t, either. It’s funny, and there’s plenty to like, and you’ll probably even learn a few things about Catholic Saints (which adds a veneer of virtue to the proceedings that they otherwise do not deserve).
And yet, for all that, Sex, Religion, and Other Hangups is a straight dude’s show about his romantic life that’s almost never sexist and never ever mean-spirited – something of a miracle. After watching plenty of Dude Solo Shows, this is a relief. It also certainly speaks to Gangl’s potential fitness as a boyfriend, I have to say.
The show is well-staged, and the lighting design is especially well done – using a broad suite of areas and specials, done in subdued colours – giving a great deal of texture (and a certain ‘theatrical’ character) to the show. It can be difficult to add tech to plain solo storytelling without overshadowing the work, but designer C.J. Astronomo seems to fully get what this show is about and, set loose with a Passe Muraille worth of instruments, she layers and builds something just right for the piece.
Details: Sex, Religion, and Other Hangups plays at Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave, October 4th – 22nd
Show Times: Tues – Thurs 8:00pm, Fri & Sat 7:00 & 9:00PM
Tickets: $25 General Admission
$20 Students/Seniors/Arts Workers
$15 All the Single Ladies.
Box Office: 416-504-7529 OR