Reviewed by David-Edward Hughes for Backstage West, September 23 1999
With knowing laughter and insight into the lives of a certain subset of the
gay American male, and with special attention to their formative years and
experiences, actor/playwright Michael Whistler's The Faggot Museum scores very
high marks indeed.
A familiar, technically solid actor in several mainstage Seattle productions in recent years, Whistler nurtured TFM through several workshops before deciding to present the work as an Actor's Equity Association Members Project Code production. Under the sensitive, swiftly paced direction of James Haskins, Whistler is quite impressive as the subjects in an "exhibit" of sweet-natured, likeable, usually loud, rather effeminate gay men. Haskin's staging has Whistler's co-star, Michael Patten, as a museum guard who sets up each piece of the exhibit; after all of Whistler's monologues are concluded, the entire exhibit has been set up and is ready for public viewing.
Whistler the writer gives himself some believable and combustively funny characters to play, with two particular standouts. He is gently humorous as a young man relating how his mother caught him and his pre-teen best friend twirling around in her jewels and curlers, playing at being on the Barbara Eden Christmas special. And his portrait of a particularly effete antique pottery dealer is a loving one, as indeed are all of the men represented here.
But Whistler outdoes himself with a sassy, laugh-fest of a turn as a spitfire Latino performance artist in a one-queen tribute to the one and only Ms. Rivera in "Completely Chita," which threatens to be the evening's high point rather early on. Several more somber characters follow, notably a nicely realized ex-altar boy recalling his religious experience with his priest in a shower, and a good change-of-pace monologue by the nicely contrasting Patten in which the guard owns up to his own quieter gay lifestyle, which began with a crush on Robert Conrad's tight-trousered allure on TV's Wild Wild West.
Then comes the icing on the cake, a hilarious yet touching look at a Broadway musical comedy queen whose destiny and lifestyle were determined by the broadcast of The King and I on television when he was six. When you come down to it, he determines, whistling a happy tune to chase your fears, or going head to head with a blustering (if handsome) monarch -and of course wearing one of the biggest hoop skirts ever made-are wonderful things.
Craig Wollam's set and lighting are minimal in design and achieve maximum effective, while Charlie D'Amato's wonderfully individual costumes help Whistler a great deal with his tour de force.