By David Schulz
Special to The Seattle Times
Despite its harsh-sounding full name, which this paper is abbreviating, the new theater piece "The . . . Museum," which is now playing at the Theatre Off Jackson, is a thoughtful homage to effete male homosexuals.
Michael Whistler, who wrote the piece and stars in it, presents subtly crafted monologues in which he portrays men who, to some degree, fit stereotypes for a homosexual.
They aren't radically "queer" or even necessarily openly gay. Rather, as Whistler embodies each, they are richly human.
We meet an antique collector who explains his attachment to a 170-year-old earthenware chamber pot; a Wisconsin man who discovers after years of trying to be a baritone that he is, in fact, a tenor; and man who invokes new-age spirituality to battle his HIV infection.
There is also an opera connoisseur, as well as two men who are passionate about Broadway musicals.
Each character has an identifying object that becomes installed in the gallery being built during the course of the evening.
Thankfully, Whistler and director James Haskins eschew cultural politics to present this array of men on their own terms.
As a result, each man emerges with a stark honesty that exposes the emotional struggles they either intentionally evade or have not fully discovered for themselves.
We clearly see how they live - as the opera connoisseur explains, on the knife's edge between hope and disappointment.
A security guard (played by Michael Patten) provides more than a masculine counterpoint to these effeminate men. He explains how, as a young, self-aware gay man, he avidly sought the answer to the question, "What is a homosexual?"
The answer, Whistler seems to suggest, is in the gallery of men who transcend the stereotypes that seemingly define them.