They went for it! And it was fabulous.
Last night (Saturday, 12 March) I saw Victoria College Drama Society’s production of RENT. It was the last show of a three night run, and it was filled with moving and hilarious moments from a diverse and very queer cast. (I say this as an Alum of Trinity College!)
The thing I liked least about the show was the sound system–it didn’t serve them well. The thing I loved best was the sheer dedication, even better, the commitment of each of the actors. When Angel’s wig comes flying off because she’s werkin’ that choreo, hunny, you know these people are having a blast!
Spliced into the show were clips about late-eighties early-nineties AIDS activism, which lent a sobering and grounded sense of history to the camp and sexiness of the play.
For me, the best moments were when most of the cast sang off-mic: “Will I Lose My Dignity” and “No Day But Today” were particularly well-tuned and chill-inducing. Communal singing isn’t something we encounter in society much these days, and I felt deeply moved.
I seem to have lost my program, so I’m sorry that I won’t be able to name the actors that struck me. Roger had a great voice, even if he lacked rock-star hair; Maureen not only had a great voice, but great charisma and presence; Mimi (Ms. Sundar-Singh, my good friend’s niece) was lithe and understated, when the sexuality of the character could have pushed the performance way over the top.
The single most moving moment for me was hearing Mark (Katie) singing “No Day But Today” a cappella at the end of the show. I lack words for the quiet beauty and clarity of that moment. It created a space of silence that persisted until the lights came up for the curtain call, something I haven’t experienced in a long time.
And now for the theological bit everyone was half-expecting: As much as some might legitimately complain that “la vie boheme” is not a social reality with which they would be comfortable, RENT reminds me of the Gospel: because of Jesus, there is a Way to resist the dehumanizing principalities and powers, a Way to remember compassion and alternative community in a world that tells us such things are meaningless. RENT reminds me that “friendship is thicker than blood” and–maybe best of all–that God’s queer future includes all the “wrong” sorts of people, and those who have come to their senses.