Bare is a pop-rock musical that has an incredibly talented cast bringing life to a narrative that has aged poorly.
A brief rundown of the plot is that Peter (Adam DiMartino) is trapped in a Catholic Boarding school with his roommate, lover, and school jock, Jason (Finn Alexander). Peter struggles with the idea of coming out, which Jason does not see as an option at all. Both characters have families who cannot stand the thought of a gay son. Driving a wedge between the couple they look to their friends to cope, all set to a very obvious backdrop of the school play, Romeo and Juliet, used to parallel their experiences.
Both Adam DiMartino and Finn Alexander excel in their leading roles with flawless and emotional performances. Each bringing a distinct feeling of verisimilitude to what could have been hollow archetypal roles. The talent doesn’t stop their either. With stunning vocals from Hannah McInerny, Jake Fehily, Mandi Lodge and Vanessa Menjivar in supporting roles this show is an unstoppable all singing powerhouse. No actor on that stage has anything less than full commitment to their purpose, and the bar was never lowered.
Bare’s debut production was in 2000, to which I attribute its thematic triteness. It is a musical that puts a heavy emphasis on the horrors of coming out gay, the isolation of teenagers navigating sexual awakenings, and a healthy dose of Catholic guilt. Whether that’s because you are fat, into drugs, or shagging your same-sex roommate.
Through no fault of the play itself, it represents these themes as they were interpreted in 2000, but mostly through a lens of – Tonight on Fox News, a crazy teenage fad sweeping the nation are your children at risk? Teen pregnancy, suicide and an entire class sneaking out to a club at age 17 and taking G are just some of the plot points that are definitely possible but would have felt a lot more dramatic and gritty in the early 2000’s. Were it rewritten for a 2017 audience, the main characters would have wandered into the wrong neighbourhood because of Pokemon Go, had their fidget spinners stolen, and been addressed using the wrong pronouns. The issues just don’t carry the same emotional weight for most people in the developed world as they would have 20 years ago.
As an example, it features the line “there’s a black woman inside the soul of every man” which is intended as a form of positive discrimination for both black women and gay men. Modern sensitivities, however, would see the inherent problems of saying all of one marginalised group have the attributes of another.
Again, this is not a fault of the play, not everything ages well, particularly race and gender comedy. But it does cause a disconnect between all the things this production gets right.
The technical side of things is all very sharp. The use of movable walls that become lockers, a confessional booth, a proscenium arch and more. A neon cross suspended over the stage and the use of late 90’s fashion evoke Baz Luhrmann’s film version of Romeo and Juliet from 1996. A method of darkness and spotlights is prevalent throughout the show, giving a feeling of isolation to the characters.
Despite being a narrative that is past it’s best before date, Bare is smothered in delicious condiments that make the meal a lot more appetizing. The overall quality is one of the things we have come to expect from StageArt who seem to have endless supplies of talented actors and never fail to have the highest calibre of performance in mind when they turn their hand to any show.
7/10 Star-crossed lovers.
Bare is running until 15 April.
More information and tickets can be found here.