THEATRE REVIEW: Jerker

Jerker had the audience more than just a little hot and bothered at Gasworks Arts Park on Saturday night (Jan 31). It was the end of a long, steamy heat wave and the theatre was crammed with queer men, hanging out for a hot, raunchy performance!
THEATRE REVIEW: Jerker
Jerker had the audience more than just a little hot and bothered at Gasworks Arts Park on Saturday night (Jan 31). It was the end of a long, steamy heat wave and the theatre was crammed with queer men, hanging out for a hot, raunchy performance! The cast and crew didn't disappoint with this Midsumma production" set in San Francisco at the beginning of the eighties, in the early days of the AIDS crisis - Jerker tells the story of two gay men, Bert (Russ Pirie) and JR (Gary Abrahams) who become embroiled in an anonymous affair, via the telephone. The men call each other up for regular liaisons in which they engage in provocative role plays such as two brothers going on fairytale adventures through an enchanted forest and challenging camping tours with dominant scout leaders. The role plays are suggestive and playful, gushing with sexual innuendo and imaginative dialogue - performed with lust and enthusiasm" culminating in a mutual jerk off session which the actors simulate beneath the covers. The action takes place in a minimal setting. The characters share a double bed which represents their individual apartments in inner city San Francisco. The men laze about in their underwear, masturbating regularly during highly charged phone sex encounters. The script is sharp, well paced and engrossing. It leaves a lasting impression on the audience, close together in an intimate setting – the perfect space for a saucy performance on a hot summer's night. The script skillfully shifts into tender moments between the characters where they slip out of the anonymity of their roles to engage in endearing discussions about the impact of the mysterious new illness sweeping the city. These exchanges are moving and heartfelt – just as effective as the highly evocative sexual overtones of the previous encounters. The actors do a fantastic job, immersing themselves in the script, bringing it to life with conviction and enthusiasm. They had the audience gasping for breath, guzzling wine, squirming in their seats and fanning themselves with their programs. The play is highly reminiscent of the rise of online resources such as 'Gaydar' and 'Manhunt' where queer men seek friends, sex partners and relationships in the age of cyberspace. While somewhat different from telephone hook ups of the eighties, 'Jerker' portrays the connection between two complete strangers who never meet face to face. Two queer men who meet 'under cover' and slowly form a genuine care and concern for one another. While I was highly impressed with Jerker I was a little disappointed with the ending which seemed rather sudden and under-developed. I left the theatre wanting something more" further development in the relationship or a more powerful resolution perhaps. Still, while I walked out feeling slightly hot and bothered, I was thoroughly impressed with the experience on most levels" the dialogue, the performance and the impact – it was definitely an affair to remember. What: Jerker Where: Gasworks Arts Park (Misdumma Fest) Written By: Robert Chesley and Directed by Gary Abrahams Review by James May

James May

Monday 2 February, 2009

About the author

James May is a freelance writer of theatre, short fiction and journalism. He's had a number of short works produced and material published in magazines and anthologies.