Gay Banditos - a Laramie Project for homophobes, and I mean that as a compliment; deeply wrong, deeply hilarious - 5 stars #mnfringe
"This [rainbow] was some sort of signal. Some sort of gay signal."
How the cast of The Mechanical Division's Fringe production of The Gay Banditos all kept a straight face throughout the performance I will never know. We in the audience were all howling with laughter. The Gay Banditos is a razor sharp satire, so good one could be forgiven for worrying that someone would bootleg a video of it to Fox News who would not get the joke. "See," they'd intone ominously, "the gay agenda really is destroying the social fabric of small town America."
"I don't think about fabric or go around telling people their shoes are nice or putting dresses on my dog."
Ben Thietje and Bobby Gardner's script follows the structure and presentational style of The Laramie Project so precisely you could line them up next to each other and swear they were written by the same people. The direction and acting of all involved reinforce this in tightly controlled fashion that I found most impressive. It's the reason the satire cuts as deep as it does. It's also the reason the laughs are as plentiful and hearty as they are from beginning to end.
"When did you guys start listening to Kelly Clarkson?"
The Narrator (Gardner again) introduces us to the story of the Miller family - Hank (Tom Karki), Deborah (Christine Karki) and their son Cody (Patrick Kozicky) - terrorized by an (unseen) marauding group of Gay Banditos. In exposing them (literally) to acts of gay sex, the Gay Banditos undermine the Miller family's rock solid heterosexual lifestyle forever. Deputy James Barnes (Thietje again) investigates the Millers' plight, though he has his own personal reason for pursuing the Gay Banditos. The tale is reconstructed after the fact from hilariously deadpan interviews, transcripts and journal entries.
"You've gone too far this time, boner."
The discomfiting thing about the comedy, of course, is that most of the things the Millers say aren't all that exaggerated. People actually think and talk this way. As a gay audience member, I was laughing just as much as anyone (which is to say a hell of a lot), but I also realized the joke is partly on me. The fact that 100% of the net profits from the production are being donated to Minnesotans United For All Families and their fight to defeat the marriage amendment on the November ballot this year goes a long way to reassuring my fractured viewing mind. The fact that most of the cast is straight and was ticked off enough to do a piece of theater like this to raise money for this cause gives me enormous comfort (i.e., it's not just gay people who are fighting back; if you piss off our friends, they'll fight for us, too, with every weapon at their disposal). And the comfort isn't just for me as an audience member watching satire that veers very close to reality. It's comfort that, damn, maybe I'm not in this alone after all.
"I wouldn't be surprised if some of them are in this dark theater, watching us right now."
So thanks, Mechanical Division. You guys are the best. Thanks for weirding me out. Thanks for making me laugh. Thanks for having my back (in a completely hetero kinda way).
"They were hugging, but not in a Christian way."
If you need a lot of good laughs, which you can even feel a little guilty about, and then feel great about immediately afterward - The Gay Banditos is your ticket. Laugh it up, and support a worthy cause. (And just like their program notes say, Vote No in November)
5 stars - Very Highly Recommended