What to add? The show has been polished and tightened, and a few updates - a lot has happened since November 2013 - have been added, but the effect is to heighten the comedy and deepen the darkness. The cast/creators - Damien Atkins (London Road, Sextet, Mr Burns, a Post-Electric Play), Paul Dunn (Pig) and Andrew Kushnir (Cock, Wormwood) - have grown, and what were performances is now channeling a huge cast of characters. Their timing remains spot-on and, in what was a preview, only lost its relentless momentum when the audience could not stop laughing or spontaneously applauding.
Best of all, they haven't lost their enthusiasm for the subject matter, the sense of discovery and wonder. Even while one monologues, the others watch rapt and engaged, melded somewhere between their character and their own emotional reactions. There is also a deeper personal investment, they are telling their stories as well as giving a riotous ribald tour of gay history - it deepens the emotions and adds rainbow colours of a brighter hue. When the trio takes turns telling each others' stories, doing impressions of their fellow actors doing impressions, the entire structure folds in on itself and we witness a literal conceptual illustration of that special connectivity within the gay community.
Nuances shine through: Atkins Wizard of Oz parody is now wickedly funny and full of deliciously accurate impressions; and his "What I Hate About Being a Gay Actor" has so much comic vitriol that it spits (it also helped that the preview audience contained a who's who of gay Canadian actors who convulsed with that gut laughter of recognition). Kushnir's mash-up of gay anthems and gay protest slogans has been sharpened into a weapon of laughter, anger and physical precision. And he has a viciously endearing way of delivering a punchline to create maximum impact. Dunn turns research and discovery into devastating and understated pathos that rips at the heart.
A second viewing perhaps reveals a few seams where the skit following skit structure,while constantly revealing unexpected surprises, makes one long for more teamwork. However, while I began the evening writing short notes about everything I particularly liked or thought clever, the end result was that I jotted down a synopsis of the entire show. Even what I remembered vividly from 2013 seemed fresh and the punchlines, comic and tragic, all hit home.
My only complaint is that it is an overview of "gay heritage." There is time spent wrestling, albeit thoughtfully and hilariously, with the concept of privilege, and there just isn't enough time to squeeze in all the characters and history and magnificent gayness, that their curiosity has uncovered. An entire evening could be dedicated to Gay Canadian Action Heroes, or instructions in understanding Polari, or The Sissy Liberation Front, or . . . I'd even enjoy an evening with the stylings of The Pansy Rovers.
The Gay Heritage Project should not be a night of theatre: it should be a series of nights, an epic dive into this wonderful, wacky and heartbreaking concept. A marvelous marathon we could binge watch for nights on end. The Gay Heritage Project is that exhilarating.
The Gay Heritage Project continues until Sun, Jan 31 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St. buddiesinbadtimes.com