2012 Next Stage Theatre Festival Review: Loving the Stranger or How to Recognize an Invert (Ecce Homo Theatre)

Loving the Stranger

I listened to Frank Sinatra on a crowded streetcar on the way to Factory Theatre to see Loving the Stranger or How to Recognize an Invert. I didn’t feel unwelcome but I did feel out of place.

A visit the McAuslan Heated Beer Tent before the play reminded me that I was amongst warm, friendly people. The Next Stage Theatre Festival is a vibrant community. A visit is always a rewarding journey, more than “just” a play.

Loving the Stranger expanded more than one of my perspectives. It was the first cabaret I’ve seen but won’t be my last. It also may have been my first experience with verbatim theatre. More importantly, the play introduced me to Peter Flinsch.

Flinsch was a member of the Hitler Youth who was arrested for kissing a friend at a Luftwaffe party on Christmas Eve, 1942. The Nazis arrested Flinsch under Paragraph 175, along with 100,000 other men. Flinsch was one of the 4,000 who survived.

Flinsch later emigrated to Canada and became an award-winning visual artist.

Artistic Director Alistair Newton interviewed Flinsch in 2010. Flinsch’s words provide the backbone of Loving the Stranger. Flinsch’s story is life-affirming. Indeed, he danced instead of marching for tyranny.

Being a cabaret, there are numerous songs, comedic skits, dancing and audience interaction. The cast of five plays over 30 characters. All of them are interesting, and some of them are sexy. There’s great chemistry onstage and lots of playful flirting with the audience.

The singing is great, especially Kimberly Persona. At times she reminded me of Carol Kane’s character Simka from the old TV show Taxi.

I also thought Matt Jackson and Marianne Jette did a great job with the set and costumes.  The costumes are inventive and fun. The play is a feast for the eyes as a result.

Loving the Stranger makes a comparison between California’s Proposition 8 and Paragraph 175. Proposition 8 was wrong-headed, discriminatory and evil. I think it is a stretch to compare the two though. A fairer comparison could be made between Nazi German and the many dark corners of the world where same-sex relationships are considered criminal.

Overall, seeing Loving the Stranger felt similar to the streetcar ride. I was in a crowded theatre full of strangers. The strangers on public transit were apathetic, almost zombie-like. The strangers onstage and in the audience were accepting, vibrant and full of life.

I have two tips before you go. First, there is full nudity onstage. It is necessary to the play, not wanton. Second, as Bill Cosby used to say “If you’re not careful, you may learn something before it’s done!”

– All Next Stage Theatre Festival performances are being held at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst)
– Tickets for all shows are $15 for Evening Performances (7:00 and after start time), $12 for Afternoon Performances (6:59 or before start time) and $10 for Ante-chamber performances
-Tickets are available in person, by phone at 416-966-1062 or online
– Showtimes for Loving the Stranger are:
JAN 5 / 7:30
JAN 7 / 2:45
JAN 8 / 5:15
JAN 9 / 6:15
JAN 11 / 8:30
JAN 12 / 9:00
JAN 13 / 5:15
JAN 14 / 7:00
JAN 15 / 7:00

Run Time: 60 min