Sky Gilbert’s latest theatrical endeavour, Greg’s Cookies, is billed as a “satire.” Performed in the Epochal Imp on the Danforth, this offbeat little comedy is undeniably captivating, but I’m not entirely sure what exactly is being satirized here.
The titular establishment, nestled prominently on Church Street, is clearly a stand-in for Craig’s Cookies. Because the publicity material for the show contains a rant about the “condo attack” on gay bars and bathhouses, I was bracing myself for an angry lament about the gentrification of the gay-bourhood. The play doesn’t go there; it’s looming contextually, I guess, in the fringes of this celebration of… a lost culture?
Conjoined twins, Velma (Kirsten Johnson) and Virginie (Sigrid Johnson) come to Church Street to experience Greg’s Cookies. Their connected torso is suggested by a bright green set of twin-pants designed by Lydia Willis. They waddle back and forth through the audience, getting distracted by their own banter and, eventually, encounter a disturbed Homeless Man (Bruno Simoes) who takes a shit on the street. The rubber turd he leaves is, uh, quite a sight.
This guy can quote Dickens, so there’s some culture tucked away inside his addled brain and Simoes has a manic energy that’s pretty thrilling, but I just didn’t get the point of him. Velma and Virginie, at least, have a conversation that reveals some character. Virginie is sexually adventurous, always butting heads with bashful Velma, who’s disdainful of her sister’s exploits and crass talk. Their chemistry and dynamic is charming enough. Gilbert has Velma obsessing over non-binary identity in a way that feels simultaneous pandering and dismissive.
When the much-lauded Greg finally appears, things take a turn for the celestial. David Benjamin Tomlinson—statuesque in a white suit and shaggy, Ken-doll blond wig—is quite a spectacle. Speaking in a dulcet tone and holding his hands aloft like a gay, Beach Boy Jesus; he invites them into his shop, sits them down on a tiny divan and waxes poetic about the archetypal, symbiotic relationship between gay men and straight women.
Gilbert’s fetishizing of this relationship is a little icky. The idea that any bond between gay men and straight women is founded on little more than a mutual desire for penis is, well, silly and boring. So much of this feels uncomfortably old fashioned and disconnected from current, more expansive notions of queerness. This is a generous interpretation, but perhaps that attitude is what’s being satirized.
I found many of the talking points rather tiresome, but I did enjoy myself. There is an absurdist, intimate quality to all these antics that I greatly appreciated. The characters feel iconic and the cast really sell their weird personae. The isn’t quite pantomime, but still very deliberately and deliciously arch.