Poly Queer Love Ballad, presented by Theatre Passe Muraille, is a disarmingly tender and guileless two-hander about a brief—though meaningful—queer, polyamorous affair. Nina and Gabbie meet at an open mic poetry night; their flirtation leads to an intense few months before the passion runs its course and they go their separate ways.
As a story, it sounds so simple, almost banal. And it both is and isn’t. Co-creator/performers, Sara Vickruck (Gabbie) and Anais West (Nina), take this unassuming premise and fashion it into an achingly truthful, cabaret-style musical.
With an array of instruments, a loop pedal and some beatboxing—the musical element, though distinctly layered and intricate, feels spontaneous. The performance has a delicate fluidity, the manipulation of musical props helping to define the physicality of the characters and add to their charisma.
Their discussions, always concerned with sex and intimacy, have a lyrical intensity. The dialogue is, essentially, spoken word poetry and so their dynamic has a performativity that feels deliberate and purposeful yet entirely sincere. Their giddy and playful rapport is totally endearing and it made me swoon—often.
There is tension too and it comes from their conflicting ideas of what makes a healthy relationship. Nina is familiar and comfortable with polyamorous partnerships, Gabbie—not so much. They are, however, very much in love and committed to finding some common ground. Gabbie gives the non-monogamous lifestyle a shot and Nina agrees to a set of rules to give their relationship a formal structure. And this mutual understanding works out, until it doesn’t.
The ending, with its bittersweet authenticity, really hit home. I was fearing a conventional, feel-good, love conquers all conclusion, but I was surprised and delighted by the show’s sober, honest and genuinely comforting final note.
Poly Queer Love Ballad is a poignant and whimsical tribute to forms of intimacy that aren’t defined by rigid social conventions. It is also a sweet and sexy celebration of the expansive potential of human connection.