’Gay Bomb’ :: Don’t Ask, Just Have Sex
Oh, those predictable gays. A hot guy shows up and everything else seems unimportant. Just the slightest whiff of the same sex is enough to do it.
Imagine the military advantage if you could bottle this queer character flaw and turn it into a weapon of mass distraction.
Don't laugh. According to the U.S. military, it could happen... theoretically.
In 1994, scientists at Dayton, Ohio's Wright Laboratory came up with a three-page proposal that outlined a variety of scenarios using non-lethal chemical weapons. One idea gave new meaning to the phrase, "Surrender, Dorothy!"
The big thinkers in white lab coats put forth the notion that it might be possible to develop a "gay bomb" that would drop sex pheromones on opposing troops-who would instantly become too effeminate, and horny, to fight our brave heterosexual boys in uniform.
That wacky plan never got past the drawing board-but 18 years later, it inspired a musical comedy whose premise is only slightly more ridiculous than the true tale that inspired it.
"Gay Bomb: The Musical" takes place shortly after conservative President Felching has been sworn into office-having secured his landslide victory with the promise to "defend the United States from the homosexual and Mooslem threats."
But when a Middle Eastern conflicts arises and the troops are stretched too thin, Felching sees an easy way out: go in the opposite direction his own moral compass is pointing, and embrace a controversial new chemical weapon that "can turn the enemy gay."
Things go terribly wrong, of course-and before the final curtain, this epic satire manages to skewer prejudice, power and paranoia from the left, right and all points in between...and there are lots of splashy production numbers!
EDGE called "Gay Bomb" creators Chris Friden and Steve Whyte to find out about the show, for which they share credit for the book and lyrics. College roommates in the late 1980s, the duo has worked on a variety of creative projects during the past 25 years-most notably, the sports comedy TV show "Out of Bounds" (which ran on SportsChannel-New England).
"Neither of us have ever written a musical before," Whyte notes.
"We actually wrote a screenplay about a year ago, and then figured it would make a fun musical. I learned a lot about musicals and what makes them tick from the musical improv classes at the Magnet," Whyte says-referring to The Magnet Theater, a popular improv comedy performance space in Chelsea.
"Then, when we decided to do this project, I read a shitload of books on the subject, took a ’musical writer’s boot camp’ workshop at Davenport Theatrical, and bent the ear of fellow Magnet improviser and librettist Justin Moran."
Prior to embarking on this project, Friden admits, "My only exposure to musicals was enjoying them. I’ve been a musician [a bass player], but I consider myself a lyricist, since writing is my strength."
Whyte, who plays drums for "Gay Bomb" and has been in jazz and big band ensembles, made his living as a musician before "Out of Bounds" took off and "started taking all of our time."
Equal opportunity offenders
Friden and Whyte, both influenced by the musical satire output of "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, brought their appreciation for that profane, provocative and irreverent style to "Gay Bomb." But in a savvy nod to Broadway’s Golden Age musicals, they based the narrative on the classic romantic arc-anchoring the show with boy meets girl and boy meets boy trials and tribulations.
That means there’s something for nearly everyone, no matter what their ethnicity or sexual/political leanings. The absurdity of conflict and prejudice, however, is what really makes the musical click and tick. In true "South Park"- style, that means being equal opportunity offenders.
"It has to do," says Whyte of the "Gay Bomb" marrow, "with playing with the danger of stereotyping. Part of the way we play with that is by going over the top. We do a lot with gay stereotypes in the show. The musical format plays into that very well."
"We also look at religious and political stereotypes, the tension between a Christian set of values and an Islamic set of values," Friden says, noting that right wing extremism takes its share of hits as well. "Our president character is a pretty atrocious guy who’s misogynistic, xenophobic and homophobic...so he really is the character that represents these button-pushing points of view.
Whyte says that even though the musical, which takes place in the "very near future" unfolds in a universe where Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell doesn’t’ exist, one of the characters is still exposed to homophobia from his brothers in arms.
"We have a character who, everyone around him, assumes is gay," Whyte says. "He is allowed to join the Army, but he’s discriminated against. He’s definitely being marginalized because of what people assume his sexual orientation to be. It’s a commentary on those existing factors, the things that are happening today. We [Chris and I] believe there’s certainly homophobia, racism and xenophobia around. Maybe it’s better than it was 20 years ago, but unfortunately, we think it’s alive and well in the United States."
Friden and Whyte wouldn’t elaborate on the "is he or isn’t he" character’s fate...and they were similarly coy about the cast (which was hand-picked from some of the Magnet Theater’s most gifted and prolific improv comedic actors).
"Our cast is very mixed as far as sexual orientation goes," Whyte says, noting that the ones playing straight and the ones playing gay don’t necessarily correspond to their real life leanings. "Orientation really didn’t play a factor in determining who got to play whom. People were cast to play who they were best suited for...but I think everyone is having fun playing with these stereotypes-of straights, gays and the right wing."
"Gay Bomb" runs at 8:30pm, June 15, 18, 22 & 29 . At the Magnet Theater (254 W. 29th St., near 8th Ave.). Run time: 80 minutes, no intermission. For tickets ($15), visit www.brownpapertickets.com/event/243612"www.brownpapertickets.com/event/243612. For info, visit www.gaybombthemusical.com/"www.gaybombthemusical.com.