'Freedom Deck' milks tired gay stereotypes

"Freedom Deck" at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas' Black Box is the sort of light, harmless farce that you can enjoy on television while you're doing three other things. The trouble is, it's not a TV program. It's a stage show that forces your undivided attention, and you can feel your IQ going down a few points with every minute of playing time.

The plot: People aboard a gay cruise ship seem to be all, in one way or the other, conspiring to take control of a gay magazine. Seems you have to be homosexual to work there, and there's lots of scrambling to prove who is or who isn't.

I'm not sure what sort of vein Master of Fine Arts candidate Oscar Limon is writing in, but he plays like Christopher Durang without the outrageousness, or maybe Joe Orton, without the darkness, or Noel Coward, without the wit, or maybe it's just "Will & Grace" during a writers strike.

The jokes have to do with what's supposed to be the hysterical sightings of men acting like women, men grabbing sex toys when it's inappropriate, straight guys being forced to kiss gay guys, and a butch woman trying to interlock mouths with another female.

The jokes aren't always terrible, but it's hard to believe that anyone would care enough to go through the hard work of writing this simple script, and editing it, and performing it. You sense no passion behind the words, no great need for the writer to say anything. I mean, even "knock-knock" jokes can carry with them the passion of a good writer if they're clever and desperate enough.

Limon understands structure. His scenes build nicely to a climax, and he and director Sarah Norris sense when to slow down, when to get frantic. The cast is adequate, with Neise Cordeiro as a particularly humorous villain and Griffin Stanton-Ameisen as a likable love-seeking photographer.

I sensed many people squirming during the love scenes. Every time there was a chance two men were about to kiss, I heard from the audience groans of "Oh God, no!" and "Lord have mercy." Limon is an openly gay writer, but there's no evidence that he's trying to poke fun at these gay stereotypes. He's just milking them for the jokes that were stale long before being an openly gay writer was "safe."

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at DelValle@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.