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Reviewed by:
  • Bare
  • Julie Rae Mollenkamp
Bare. Book by Jon Hartmere and Damon Intrabartolo. Music by Damon Intrabartolo. Lyrics by Jon Hartmere. Directed by Jeff Church. Musical direction by Anthony T. Edwards. Unicorn Theatre, Kansas City, MO. 16 May 2009.

Every generation needs to hear a story that the one before them already knows; still, that story requires a revisioning to fit the shifts in cultural context. The tale of two young star-crossed lovers (who both happen to be male) finds a twenty-first-century audience with bare. Premiering in 2000, bare is a cult hit in many cities; teen and twenty-somethings are enamored with the music and their story. One of only a handful of professional companies that have included bare in their season, the Unicorn cleverly made the appropriate contextual shifts. The subject matter is relevant in a time when suicide among GLBT teens continues to rise and legal measures to deny civil rights for homosexuals make headlines. Bare is a play with many lessons about acceptance, ably conveyed through clever scenic, prop, and costume choices and a smart, appropriate collaboration between professional and educational theatre.

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KC Comeaux (Peter), Tony Humrichouser (Priest), and Shea Coffman (Matt) in bare. (Photo: Cynthia Levin.)

Bare, marketed as “a merge between Spring Awakening and Dead Poet’s Society” and “the REAL High School Musical,” explores the pains and pleasures of high school seniors at a coed Catholic boarding school: Jason, the jock who is closeted; Peter, the nerd who loves him; Ivy, the easy girl; Matt, always second-best; Nadia, the fat chick. Throw in a sassy African American teacher, a homophobic mom, and an ineffectual priest and anyone who attended high school can relate. The love story takes prominence as Peter struggles to come out against the wishes of his lover Jason. When Jason and Ivy are cast as Romeo and Juliet, he uses this opportunity to prove his manhood by bedding her. This union results in a series of predictable disasters. Reflecting Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story, bare juxtaposes two contemporary households as well as the cool and uncool, while depicting church doctrine and the reality of today’s society, the fight within self to define identity, the lack of intra- and intergenerational understandings, and the presence of star-crossed lovers (in this case, young gay men). The reversal of gender adds a twist to the familiar tale, but the character types remain universal.

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Katie McCreary (Angel), Craig Allen (Angel), and Nedra Dixon (Sister Chantelle) in bare. (Photo: Cynthia Levin.)

The set and props for bare were minimal, yet managed to convey the contemporary setting. Choir risers served as an altar, an abandoned building, and a courtyard; a simple black frame became a coffin, [End Page 643]

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Shea Coffman (Matt), Brandon Sollenberger (Jason), and KC Comeaux (Peter) in bare. (Photo: Cynthia Levin.)

[End Page 644]

a doorway, and a mirror. Two benches transformed from lockers to beds to classrooms. The cast effectively used pantomime to show backpacks, doorways, and notebooks, and all used cell phones. The four-piece band took up a full quarter of the stage; by performing in rock concert style and becoming part of the ensemble moments, it added spectacle to the sparse design. This minimalism provided a perfect opportunity for audience members to reminisce about their own high school hallways, which developed a connection between what was happening onstage and their own personal experiences.

The costumes, which were highly reflective of television’s Gossip Girls and the teen flick Mean Girls, set the time period as well. The Catholic schoolboy uniforms were amplified with hoodies for Jason and Peter and a sweater vest with tie for Matt. The girls’ uniforms were transformed with safety pins, creating the seams of Nadia’s school sweater and four-inch pumps and a corset-like vest for Ivy. Other details included underwear as outerwear, a rosary as hip jewelry, pink hair, and combat boots. The choices were spot on with current fashion trends; indeed, about half the audience members were sporting similar clothing.

Costuming also...


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pp. 643-645
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