Last night, I saw a play at the Harbourfront Centre’s Fleck Dance Theatre called “Straight White Men.”
The premise is simple: three brothers and their father meet up at home for Christmas.
The three brothers and their father have chosen different paths in life and different ways of thinking about its challenges and rewards. A complication arises when one of the brothers has an emotional outburst (i.e. crying, which seems to be the only truly unacceptable form of emotional outburst among this social group).
The play’s focus is the issue of straight white male gender identity. What does this identity mean? What behaviours are acceptable and not acceptable within it? What privileges does it hold?
In a question and answer session after the play, playwright Young Jean Lee pointed out that, as an Asian female, she had to do a lot of research as she is neither a male nor white and had not witnessed how straight white men act when women are not around (because to observe them, she would have to be in the room).
This play could have very easily ended up being inaccurate, preachy, heavy-handed, and/or static.
Instead, it was full of humour and contained a good amount of movement (cue play fights, roughhousing, and some hilariously terrible dancing on the part of the brothers). It was also fair to the straight white men in it – it allowed them to have a healthy amount of self-reflection and social awareness. They were cognizant of their privilege and the …how do I put this…? … misguided ranging to the abhorrent actions of past and present straight white men. One particularly funny snippet was about how one of the brother’s volunteer work in Africa amounted to “teaching them things I didn’t know how to do and they didn’t have much interest in learning either.”
It is my opinion that this play is essential viewing for straight white men and non-straight, non-white, non-male persons, and everyone in between.
As a social commentary and examination of gender identity, it breezes along in 85 minutes and leaves you wanting more….but leaves you thinking and questioning afterwards.
Straight White Men plays tonight (Friday, June 5th) and tomorrow night (Saturday, June 6th) as part of the Harbourfront Centre’s Worldstage series. Showtime is 8pm.
P.S. Anyone who has seen the movie Office Space – the hilarious 1990s movie about office workplace culture – will recognize the guy who played Tom Smykowski – the guy who invented the “Jumping to Conclusions Mat” – playing the father in the play!
P.S.S. The playwright also mentioned that the pre-show music (which is bass-heavy rap/hip-hop with female vocalists, and is in stark contrast to the play itself), offended some of the audience so much when the show played in New York City that they demanded refunds and cancelled their subscriptions! How’s THAT for entitlement and privilege?!
For more info about the play, visit: