Review: The Gig at Hamilton’s Theatre Acquarius is exactly what we needed


Published March 13, 2023 at 1:44 pm

the gig theatre aquarius hamilton
The Gig, a play about drag queens hired for a Conservative fundraiser, opened at Hamilton's Theatre Aquarius. It's both hilarious and poignant, writes Anthony Urciuoli. (The Gig/Theatre Aquarius)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Three drag queens walk into a Conservative fundraiser…

That’s the general premise of The Gig, a two-hour comedy-drama written by Mark Crawford and directed by Morris Panych that opened at Theatre Aquarius in Hamilton Friday night. Except, the drag queens didn’t just walk in — they were hired by an ambitious up-and-coming politician looking to prove that the message of inclusivity can cross party lines.

Are the drag queens being used as political props? Even so, does it matter as long as the message of inclusivity is delivered? This is the utilitarian “greater-good” crisis being explored in The Gig: Would you be willing to swallow your trauma and prop up your enemies if it meant fewer people like you would suffer in the future?

It’s a reoccurring theme that will force even those with the most rigid of convictions to vicariously flip-flop — a rare feat in today’s socio-political landscape.

Ultimately, The Gig is about perspective. One minute you’re thinking like a drag queen fighting for your mere existence; the next, you’re in the shoes of a retired Conservative politician trying to evolve the best they can. If our hope is for people to grow and change, why are our egos so unwilling to forgive? And if we agree as a broader community that the root meaning of  “free will” is a misnomer in that people are largely — if not exclusively — shaped by their environment, where do we decide where to draw the line between acceptance and accountability? Even Charles Darwin would be intrigued.

To be clear, The Gig is very funny. Sure, it derives much of its humour from cheap stereotypes, but it does so with a purpose. Not only does it demonstrate the need for self-deprecation as a survival technique, but it also immediately disarms the audience and gets everyone on the same page. It takes mere seconds for the play to deliver its tone in a way that brings comfort to the audience at a time when we’re not always totally sure what we’re allowed to laugh at.

The Gig is able to strike the perfect balance between comedy and emotion to varying degrees, thanks to its incredible cast. It truly feels like every performer is sharing the stage, engaging in a friendly game of scene-stealing tug-of-war, thus continually elevating each other. Whether you’re watching one of the drag queens, the politicians, the “Karen” campaign manager (although she spells it with a “y” instead of an “e”), or the hilariously prickly venue engineer, it’s impossible not to find at least one redeeming quality in each of them, cleverly setting up a constant inner dialogue for the audience about who’s “right.”

the gig theatre aquarius hamilton

The Gig/Theatre Aquarius

While The Gig isn’t a drag show per se, its second act offers enough flamboyant pageantry to please even the most experienced drag show-goers.

Neil Barclay (Elf: The Musical) plays the wise, seasoned queen Fonda DeBehrs; Terri Tucker, the head queen at the heart of the conflict, is played by Steven Gallagher (The Sound of Music); and the young hotshot queen, Ms. XXXBox, is played by Jaime ‘Lucinda Miu’ Lujan (The Christmas Set-Up), who is making their Theatre Aquarius debut.

Hamilton’s own Karma Kameleon was the show’s drag consultant.

The Gig is billed as a contemporary comedy that asks, “What do we do when we don’t see eye-to-eye?” The question may seem bland on its surface, but as politically motivated culture wars are manufactured at the expense of vulnerable communities and spinelessly waged almost exclusively through online echo chambers, it begs the question: Has the line between debate and conflict been so blurred that any hint of disagreement is interpreted internally as a tribal threat or an attack?

Further, if we are going to bring back the lost art of respectful debate, can we do it without the help of memes and links to agenda-driven TikTok videos?

There’s something exciting about watching a high-stakes debate unfold between multiple parties in real-time. It’s become a lost art that The Gig executes to perfection, and it could not have come at a better time.

The Gig will be running almost nightly through Mar. 25, 2023, at Theatre Aquarius, with a few matinees scheduled as well.

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