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Chicago by John Olson

Planet of the Bisexuals
Written and Performed by David Chapman
Bailiwick Repertory Theatre, Pride Series 2005

Planet of the Bisexuals
David Chapman
Though it’s now common to refer to the “gay community” as the “gay/Lesbian/bisexual/transgendered community”, in practice it seems the bisexual segment doesn’t get much attention in the media or the arts. This year’s Bailiwick Pride series addresses that inequity by including David Chapman’s part autobiographical, part metaphysical solo show. He tells of being chastised by a straight woman with the taunt “What planet are you from?” after his failed attempt to arrange a three-way between the two of them and a gay guy. Chapman’s answer to the audience is that, given the reluctance of both gays and straights to accept bisexuality, perhaps Earth is a planet of the “monosexuals.” In his tight 70-minute performance, Chapman gives some entertaining insights into the unique and not-so-unique aspects of growing up bi.

Straight and gay audiences alike will identify with much of Chapman’s experiences, whether the first stirrings of sexual attraction (Chapman’s were for a another boy in junior high), or first sexual experience (Chapman’s were for a girl in high school). He makes the case that the process of accepting a sexual orientation that differs from the norm is further complicated by the seemingly conflicting urges of attraction to both genders. Though at the time of Chapman’s adolescence homosexuality had become recognized as a specific orientation, he shows how society’s more limited recognition of bisexuality increased his confusion when he didn’t seem to fit neatly into either of society’s two more accepted categories of sexual orientation.

With the help of director Michael Fosberg, Chapman makes his case and tells his stories with a highly kinetic and visual performance. Whether he’s sketching out the Kinsey scale on his three chalkboards (he’s a teacher in his day job, and it shows), bouncing between two cube platforms to demonstrate the “chasm” between hetero and homo-sexuality, or taking a fanciful space flight to his bisexual “Planet X” with the help of flashing lights around the proscenium, his stage pictures help tell the story and make the event more theater than stand-up.

The solar system is the metaphor for his journey, as each of the planets, starting with those closest to the sun represent a person or phase in his journey to acceptance. As he begins each segment he attaches a planet to a magnet hanging from the flies, recreating the solar system on stage (a lamp doubles as the sun). It’s a good metaphor that gives the piece structure and an identifiable arc.

Planet of the Bisexuals is funnier than it may sound here. Chapman understands the irony present in the human journey toward understanding one’s sexuality and making feeble attempts to put these understandings into practice with others. He’s an energetic and capable performer, even if he does tend to overuse an emphatic and urgent tone and sometimes steps on his own lines. Still, it’s an impressive effort for a young performer/writer to hold an audience for a solo show, and particularly to make us listen to his insightful observations on a sexual orientation which many may believe is no more real than his imagined planet.

Planet of the Bisexuals runs through June 19th, with performances Thursdays at 8 p.m., Fridays at 9:15 p.m., Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m. through June 19. Tickets are $15. Remaining shows ion the Bailiwick Pride series include Marlowe, opening June 12, and the musical A Kiss for Alexander, opening July 7th. Bailiwick Theatre is at 1229 W. Belmont, Chicago. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Box Office at 773-883-1090 or online at www.bailiwick.org.

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-- John Olson



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