note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Larry Stark
Craig Houk changes shirts and shoes for every one of his six dramatic monologues, speaking in each one as a new person to a new person. Aside from one woman, his characters are all gay men, but any stereotypes drop away quickly as his hour and twenty minute gallery presents more and more compelling portraits of unique individuals. Tears replace laughter as the evening progresses.
Houk's first two monologues dispense with the surface clichés of gay life. In the first he is a "Porn Star" entertaining a much younger fan, his self-conscious snicker punctuating every period and almost every comma. This overly ego-absorbed "chicken-hawk" is graphically specific, to a point that may discomfort straight audiences, but it's the essential loneliness of this "success" that peeks through. This is followed by Bobby, "The Relationship Expert" who dispenses advice on brief encounters as he sits, unnoticed, at the edges of a gay disco hoping that his jaded experience will, somehow, interest the equally ignored individual he's approached.
With the "Diva," Houk's gallery takes a definite turn inward. Over seventy and sharing a dressing-room mirror with an ingenue, Eileen is grudgingly admiring of the girl's choices, jealous of her future, but secure in her own past. Reluctantly admitting "Yes, I'll miss you too," when she realizes the girl hasn't been fired but took a much better role, Eileen seems to be bidding farewell to her own youth in one, halting, gracious sentence.
What follows is descent into nightmare. Houk becomes Ben in "Aloof" --- a man who sat waiting outside the sweaty emotions of the night-time Boston Gardens hoping, unchosen, to be asked. The quietly unstated bottom line here is hinted but subtle: Ben is a mental hospital patent, perhaps because when his desperately aloof attitude broke down, he acted on his homicidal fantasies.
In "Poopy Hole" (the worst tile for maybe the best sketch) Jacob is in a cab after his gig as an actor, cell-phoning his most recent significant other --- and undecided whether the cab should go to his place, or home. The other on the phone is completely realized as a come/don't come ambivalence that allows Houk to inhabit several totally conflicted reactions, each one of them perfectly believable and achingly human.
The set ends with J.D., an ageing author dictating memoirs to an occasionally sleeping secretary. "Words" suggests the problem of outliving one's legend, with a slightly surreal suggestion that the young passion of this old man's life is the one that has never aged. What a fascinating coda to this excellent gallery of engrossingly interesting portraits.