Written and directed by James Fagan Tait. A frank theatre company production, presented by the Cultch. At the Cultch's VanCity Culture Lab on Wednesday, April 18. Continues until April 29
The presentation of The Explanation is as simple as can be: two men telling us the story of how they got together. But James Fagan Tait’s new play is also complicated, because both men profess to be straight.
We start with John, recalling the thrill he got the first time he decided to try dressing as a woman: “It just came to me on a Saturday morning in spring. It was a project. I could just as easily have repotted my plants.” Instead, he goes to Value Village to pick up a couple of cheap miniskirts. A few Saturdays later, he takes the bus downtown to hang out at the Central Library’s literature DVDs section. That’s where Dick sees John for the first time, takes him for a woman, and is smitten. It’s not long before he realizes John is a man, but the two go for coffee anyway, and later go dancing at a nightclub, marvelling at the fact that they’re “two straight guys dancing at a gay bar”. Their friendship is cemented, and soon they’re getting together every week.
Though neither of the men can explain what they’re doing in a way that makes sense—they’re not gay!—they value each other’s company. They also get a thrill from being each other’s secret. Dick doesn’t want to share any details about his job, for example. “I wanted to keep the thing I was on more like a trip and less like life,” Dick confides.
Under Tait’s direction, Kevin MacDonald and Evan Frayne are warmly natural as they navigate the inevitable vulnerabilities of their ever-changing, impossible-to-explain relationship. “We were happy, and I didn’t spend too much time being confused,” Dick says. Tait’s script doesn’t linger in the awkward moments, preferring to puncture them with humour: after John kisses Dick for the first time, Dick says his breath tastes “like he’d been eating salami all year”.
And the dancing! Noam Gagnon’s playful choreography makes the nightclub scenes a highlight of the show; MacDonald and Frayne bust some joyful moves to sound designer James Coomber’s disco soundtrack. “It was fun” is the characters’ simple explanation—and we believe them.