Run, Don't Walk...Go See "Hit the Wall"

As an ally to the LGBTQ community (and a sort-of member), it is easy to complain about the hardships we endure on a daily basis because...well, at least how I see it, legal marriage being available in only a handful of states, hospital visitation rights and other forms of discrimination are legitimate issues deserving of abundant conversations.

Enter Hit the Wall, running at the Barrow Street Theater, a timely, well-done gem that manages to broaden your perspective on LGBTQ history, social commentary and issues by providing an illustration of life in 1969, with an emphasis on the infamous riots at the Stonewall Inn. In a matter of 90 minutes, the audience is treated to it all: a staged-in-the-round show so striking with its book and direction that also happens to have shade throwing-induced laugh-out-loud moments, six-packs by the handful and a fully-frontal naked guy running around a rave.

I was sold instantly between Ike Holter's book and Eric Hoff's direction instantly on the world-building aspect alone. The essence of the late-60's, what with it's coming-of-age quality and the lingering feeling of change, comes across without overdoing the alliterative references. It was easy to grasp the characters and the setting knowing none of their back stories because the time-specific detailing, the rich dialogue and the mood permeates throughout so deftly. I felt like I was already on a journey with these characters, watching them only develop further.

Take the two sassy, outspoken gays - Mika and Tano. When they throw insults at everyone, including eachother, it's not like today where it is funny and milked for laughs on Modern Family. I mean, it was funny, but I saw their shade-throwing as more of a defense mechanism for them and in some ways, a necessity for survival. You know; "those people" that bring others down because they feel bad about themselves despite the confident front they put up. It is 1969...the quantity of gay people were not in abundance and even more, only a few dared to be brave enough to live out-of-the-closet. You can just tell that these gents were pushed around and brought up in environments where they weren't accepted and referred to as inferiors; hence, Mika and Tano go after anyone that crosses their pathes, including members of their own community.

It is a harrowing thought to see those types of inner-community breakdowns, but kudos to Hit the Wall for maintaining a realistic feel and "going there." When said dudes watch members of their community get harassed or brutalized, they sit silently and watch, fearing of what may happen to them. Watching the evolution of the community (mostly) come together during the riots and we have a powerful, timeless message and a call to action...the LGBTQ community may be gradually integrating into the mainstream and earning equal rights, but we still have a long ways to go and can't just stand by and watch social injustices happen. When the characters on stage chant lines like "I was there," you don't need the full context to understand or, speaking in a pathos sense, be blown away by the strength of the piece.

Gays? Forget about your fabulous weddings for now...be thankful you can walk down the street without being constantly subjected to some form of verbal or physical harassment.

For all the seriousness and importance the show boasts, it is also pretty fun at times, especially the unhinged, balls-to-the-walls rave scene. I couldn't even process it all or even see clearly with a smoke machine working overtime, and yet, it seemed like a fun time to ditch your clothes and get in on the dancing. The choreography gets a little too contrived to feel natural, but it is a minor offense in the realm of things. There is also no denying that...well, shit goes down and doesn't pull any punches, especially the aftermath that is often difficult to watch without clutching yourself.

And the performances were stunning everywhere as well. My favorites? Nathan Lee Graham, as Carson, a cross-dressing male wanting to honor Judy Garland's memory, is witty on the insults, but humanely vulnerable as he/she teeters back and forth between wanting to be an out and proud diva, but also restrained and complacent enough to carry on without controversy. Rania Salem Manganaro plays Peg, a lesbian who dresses more man-ish then society would approve of, with a knife-in-the-heart intensity and drama as her character hits rock bottom and endures a variety of abuse. She commits and her pain is breath-takingly palpable. And props must be paid to Nick Bailey. Not only does he channel that introverted, fly-on-the-wall bit for his character, but he transitions to that partying, out-of-his-mind free-spirit perfectly, resulting in him running around completely naked. You can count his abs, all 15 of them, through his "so tight, it is practically a tourniquet" shirt, but he looks just as great with it off.

I left the theater on a shocked and adrenaline-fueled hope thinking, "fu** yeah LGBTQ." This show needs to be seen and joins the ranks of The Laramie Project for being watchable, relevant and informative. And if you like your "read for filth" humor and some cray cray-ness, there is also that served up by the platter. And if you want it all and expect it from your theater, Hit The Wall is the show you've been waiting for.

Ticket provided by the production

Photo Credit: Vulture.com


Leahmore Kristiansen said...

Thank You again - living vicariously through you at the moment.

Thanks 4 sharing.

Alex said...

You are welcome! Thank YOU for reading.