Cabin Fever

Richmond Triangle Players’ “Log Cabin” feels like talking points in search of a play.

In American politics, there’s no shortage of people who vote against their own self interests. Poor conservatives often vote for Republicans who vow to strip away the social safety net; wealthy liberals support Democrats who promise to raise their taxes. Our actions at the ballot box aren’t always as intuitive as one might think.

Then there are the Log Cabin Republicans, an organization that aims to work within the GOP to further LGBTQ+ rights. Though the group has drawn criticism from both sides of the aisle – and Republican politicians are often crossways or openly antagonistic of the rights that this group advocates for – Log Cabin Republicans have had successes, including serving as plaintiff in the lawsuit that eventually led to the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

This moral maneuvering is alluded to in the title of “Log Cabin,” a play by Pulitzer-finalist Jordan Harrison that opened last week at Richmond Triangle Players. Directed by Julie Fulcher-Davis, “Log Cabin” throws many ideas at its audience but offers little in way of resolution.

The play centers on gay couple Ezra and Chris (Jacob LeBlanc and Todd Patterson) and lesbian couple Jules and Pam (Nora Ogunleye and Theresa Mantiply), good friends that are close enough that the latter couple refers to the former as their kid’s “uncles.” From the start, these self-absorbed but thinly drawn characters can’t go long without trading barbs: Ezra is quick with a quip, Jules is impudent, Chris has a dry wit and Pam is blunt when she chooses to speak.

Their caustic bond is thrown a curveball when Henry (Kellan Oelkers), a transgender man, enters the picture. Macho and sometimes aggressive – which may be a result of the hormones he says he’s taking – Henry’s assertion that he deserves the same rights and privileges as his friends makes them bristle, especially when he calls out their advantages in society. Chris, for instance, grew up gay, Black and bullied in Wichita. How could anyone call him part of the privileged mainstream?

While these characters are too young to remember Stonewall or the early, deadly years of the AIDS epidemic, they’ve read about them and have been involved in their own generation’s fights for legal and societal acceptance. Is Henry simply piggybacking on what they’ve worked for? When the rights of transgender people are imperiled, will his friends show up or be content with their more comfortable place in society?

That the play raises questions about assimilation, privilege and entitlement is admirable, but too often these characters feel like a way for the playwright to run through a series of talking points. Still, the play has its funny moments, best of which is a Dadaist sex dream about Captain Von Trapp.

Overall, Harrison seems to be making the point that just because the letters LGBTQ+ are often placed together, that doesn’t mean that the people those letters stand for understand each other’s experiences. Still, when all of their rights are suddenly endangered (read: the election of Donald Trump), these sexual minorities realize that maybe they’re not as far apart as they seem.

“Log Cabin” runs through May 20 at Richmond Triangle Players, 1300 Altamont Ave. For more information, visit rtriangle.org or call (804) 346-8113.

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