Tuesday, March 12, 2019
"55 SHADES OF GAY" at LA MAMA -Sexual Revolution in the Balkans in a Revolutionary Foray
Nothing in "55 SHADES OF GAY" is subtle in this cabaret, burlesque, operatic political play that shames the sexual oppression of LGBT rights that blankets the Balkans in the 21st C. Jeton Neziraj (b Kosovo 1967) is a prominent political playwright that yanks the curtain the covers the oppression & denial of the gay community of their constitutional rights. "55 Shades" sets political heads rolling when a homosexual couple applies for a marriage certificate as provided for in the country's constitution. However, family law states that marriage should only be granted to same sex couples. The 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots that ushered in a new era of gay rights will be celebrated this summer with pride and peaceful parades. The Balkan countries are connected to conservative or religious ideologies that condemn homosexuality and condone violence & prejudice towards the LGBT community. Government officials continue to pressure the LGBT community to remain underground, subjecting them to shaming and discrimination. A gay couple applies for a marriage license "because we love each other and want to be married." The couple is harangued & forced to produce numerous documentations and endure countless humiliations. The vast artistic creativity onstage is innovative, provocative and unabashedly electrifying. The widespread heinous homophobia that persists in the Kosovar-Albanian society is besieged in vivid & strident methods to herald a new era of tolerance. Seeing "55 SHADES OF GAY" is a colorful pastiche of "Rocky Horror Picture Show" meets Tosca and Maya Angelou: "Love recognizes no barriers. Love jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination." Neziraj's "55 SHADES OF GAY" scorches the inane & inhumane obstacles to people loving each other. The set is festooned with condom balloons, neon lights and integrates an ingenuous musical score. The play also eloquently touches the heart in its quieter moments. A tree on stage testifies to having born witness to years of homophobic brutality and stands as a reminder there are no innocent bystanders. "55 SHADES OF GAY" at LA MAMA must be seen in all its glory.