VANCOUVER FRINGE 2022: Spooky & Gay Cabaret

Promo photo for Spooky & Gay CabaretI got goosebumps, I laughed (a lot), and I cried — all in one show. Of the performances I’ve seen at the Fringe so far this year, this is my favourite. Writer and performer Bruce Ryan Costella frames Spooky & Gay Cabaret with a scary story about an eleven-year-old lesbian who dares to venture into a haunted house on Halloween to talk to the magic jack-o’-lantern. She’s heard it grants wishes and she doesn’t want to like girls anymore. From there, Costella riffs on All Hallows’ Eve, ghosts, and queerness.  Some of it is light fun. He goes through the list of the five worst Halloween candies: “Circus Peanuts self-identify as the cool older brother of housing insulation.” Some of it is chilling: although he doesn’t name names, Costella’s story about the Pink Death is clearly an indictment of Ronald Reagan’s indifference to the AIDS epidemic. In Reagan’s later years, a demonic embodiment of the Pink Death comes for him in a  stealth form to wreak revenge. And some of Spooky & Gay Cabaret is moving. Costella emphasizes the importance of queer culture and queer cultural spaces, including bars. Accompanying himself on his ukulele, he sings Cher’s “Believe” and tells us that, when he was a lonely gay kid in Florida, that song “was like a weird astral projection from Cher. Like she was looking out for me.” At the performance I attended, the audience began singing along to support him. Costella started laughing and crying at the same time: “Nobody’s ever done that before!” He was verklempt. We were all verklempt. It was perfect.

At the Vancouver Fringe Festival. Remaining performances at Performance Works: September 12, 4:45 pm, September 13, 10:30 pm; September 14, 8:45 pm; September 18, 3:00 pm. Tickets


About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

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