BASH’d is all Rapped Up Tight

chris craddock and nathan cuckow
photo by: Alex Felipe
BASH’d is a boisterous, testosterone-ridden, vigorous, powerful attack that grabs homophobia by the balls with a merciless crunch. Chris Craddock and Nathan Cuckow have created two totally gay rap artists, Feminem and T-bag, who turn the often homophobic hip hop genre on its head to tell a tale of star-crossed lovers Dillon and Jack, who just want to live happily ever after.
This play has been the hit of the Fringe Festivals in Toronto and New York, it has played to rave reviews off-Broadway, and Cradock and Cuckow were honored with a GLAAD Award and a Courage Award from the anti-violence project in New York. The show is well worth the accolades that have been thrust upon it since its debut in 2007. Indeed, there is no doubt that BASH’d, the “hip hopera,” has a message that is immediate, crucial and relevant. Nathan Cuckow and Chris Craddock give brilliantly charming performances that pack a real punch, and Ron Jenkins’ vivid direction makes the whole play hurtle by in a whirl that is part concert, part nigtclub, and part boxing ring. Cuckow has a particularly hilarious “Cher” moment and is heartbreaking as Dillon, a young man who inherits a swift injection of rage when his husband gets beaten up by a gang of homophobic “rednecks”, Craddock has a sweetness that is heart-melting as Jack, a well-adjusted young gay Romeo, and Cuckow and Craddock are perfection playing his two dads. The writing has bite, wit, and incredibly tight rhymes (with music by Aaron Macri), with thousands of words flying by eight miles a minute that leave you breathless just watching such a precisely executed hip hop homophobia bashing.
So, what’s wrong?
The show is playing at Theatre Passe Muraille until October 31st where I’m sure the audiences will stand and cheer in celebration of such a perfectly orchestrated attack on hatred, on violence and all crimes motivated by intolerance and unwarranted fear. Yet, it seems a bit unfair that Craddock and Cuckow should be throwing every athletic muscle in their bodies, every ounce of stamina, creative and otherwise, into such a compelling sermon for the converted.
My favourite thing about Chris Craddock as a playwright is that he is the master of writing the “issue play.” His plays for teenagers, which are available in an anthology entitled Naked at School: Three Plays for Teens, are three of the best plays written for teenagers that I have ever encountered. I think all three need to be produced and toured in repertory to every Junior High and High School across this country. Craddock pushes all the boundaries when dealing with plays about the issues that he is passionate about. He does not shy away from harsh language, he never simplifies or patronizes, he embraces contradiction and the—often brutal—reality of the world. Craddock knows how to write plays that are the opposite of lame.
In BASH’d, with Cuckow, Craddock has written another brilliant “issue play,” a play with the power to persuade, and indeed with the power to make the world a better place. This play has been incredibly successful in the theatre world, and I think it is time for BASH’d to forsake the audience who WANTS to see it in favour of the audience who NEEDS to see it. Only then will it reach the full potential it has to truly resonant across our country with all its intensity, its intelligence, rhythm and heart and to smash into the crevices where homophobia festers, and to give it a hard, swift kick in the ass.
BASH’d plays at Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson Avenue) until Oct 31st. Tuesday-Saturday at 7:30pm, Saturday matinees at 2:30pm. Tickets are Tuesday-Thursday $30.00, Friday and Saturday $35.00. Saturday Matinees are Pay What You Can (or $15.00 if booked in advance). For tickets call the box office at 416.504.7529 or visit http://www.artsboxoffice.ca/.
BASH’d will then been seen in OTTAWA at Great Canadian Theatre Company January 12 – 31, 2010 (613-236-5196) and then in VANCOUVER at The Cultch. Presented in partnership with the Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad. February 16 – 20, 2010 (604-251-1363).

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