Right about now that autumn chill is probably starting to creep the back of your neck inciting the urgency for pumpkin spice lattes, reminding you that it is, indeed, time for sweater weather. And even though summer was just a few weeks ago, you are already longing for the warmth of the summer sun on your skin where you can indulge in a cocktail by the pool. You might even wish you could be on a cruise ship journeying to a distant place just to get away from that humdrum 9 to 5, but then you quickly realize payroll is due, performance evaluations are just around the corner, and that massive report your boss wanted three weeks ago is still buried somewhere underneath a pile of other items making you want to disappear–and you should! It’s time for a vacation, no doubt, but if you can’t get away–your next best option is to experience The Canadians, a fab new play written by Adam Bock at South Coast Repertory and directed by Jaime Castañeda.
The Canadians takes audiences on a journey, first to the freezing temperatures of Canada where we meet the story’s central characters, Gordy and Brendan, and then to the open ocean where they embark on a vacation like no other–surrounded by thousands of gay men on a cruise ship. When Brendan is gifted two tickets on the gay cruise, the pair of co-workers jump on the opportunity to explore the world away from the frigid Canadian weather in Port Alison, Manitoba.
On their excursion, Gordy and Brendan meet a handful of characters who, in their own hilarious way, teach them a little more about life than they bargained for. The play’s five actors transform into a ship-full of characters that force Gordy and Brendan way out of their comfort zones as they navigate through chance encounters with strangers, lust, and adventure.
The Canadians is something of a coming of age story as it deals with Gordy becoming comfortable in his own skin at the age of 23. For every gay man, the coming out process and affirmation of self-identity occurs at different stages–if at all. The show is wild and funny, yes, but at the root of this piece is a heartwarming narrative about the search for self-acceptance that resonates with anyone who has ever had to take a risk on themselves.
The exemplary cast includes Kyle T. Hester as Gordy; Daniel Chung as Brendan; Corey Brill as Bobby/Trish/Andy/White Rabbit/A Man on Deck Nine; Corey Dorris as Beth/Little Harry/Wally/A Man on Deck Nine; and Linda Gehringer as Johnny/Mayor Claudette/Oliver/Indian Princess/A Man on Deck Nine.
Instinct got in touch with playwright, Adam Bock, to learn more about The Canadians:
David Lopez: Where did the idea for The Canadians come from?
I’m Canadian—from Montreal, originally. I’ve been living in the States for a long time, but I’ve always wanted to write about Canadians. I remember going to PTown [Provincetown] for the first time. I was living in Rhode Island and two of my friends took me and it was the first time I had ever been in a town that was primarily gay. I remember being shocked by the feeling of being super comfortable, but also seeing so many handsome guys in such an open place. Fast forward about 25 years—I went on a gay cruise and the same thing happened. Just the fact that it was ALL gay guys on a boat. I thought that was an interesting world and a different world than the one I’ve seen. So I married the two of them together. I thought what it would be like if I was a young Canadian gay guy and went on a gay cruise.
DL: What has the process of working on The Canadians been like for you?
The Canadians is a commission from South Coast Rep. About 9 years ago they called me up and asked “Would you like to write a play?” and I kept putting it off until a couple of years ago and then they came back to me again so then I banged it out, came out here [CA] and did a reading of it and it turned out I had written a 40-minute long play. It’s been a real process with South Coast. They’ve supported me really well. They came to me and asked how they could help and I told them it would be great to be in a room with actors for a week with some time off to write—so they brought me out and did that and then they put me in their festival and here we are! It was interesting to see how a development process can actually help you.
DL: How did having the actors in the room with you help?
I love actors! I had someone to bounce ideas off of and I could hear if the language was working. As I learn more about the actors I start trying to write more from them on stage. We’ve worked with a lot of these guys through the process. The actors have really made a huge impact on this piece.
DL: Are the characters in the piece inspired by anyone in particular?
Different characters have little pieces of different friends of mine. I had a couple of guys who were older than me that supported me in the same way that the couple of guys do in the show. The two brothers are named after my cousins, Bobby and Johnny, although they’re not like them at all. I take a little bit of everyone usually. My sisters told me some of the jokes that are in the show.
DL: How important has it been for you to portray characters in The Canadians in a non-stereotypical fashion? How important is this in any art form?
Stereotype is tough because the sadness around stereotype is to think that people have already pegged you before you’ve opened your mouth. Or that one part of you could talk about another part. For example, if I dressed a certain way people would think I was a certain way—and those don’t necessarily match up. Just the act of a stereotype suggests that someone gets to tell someone else who they are and I think that goes very counter to gay/queer identity. It implies that the person who is creating the stereotype has a power over us, which they don’t. They’ve just taken and they’ve decided something about me.
DL: What can audiences expect from The Canadians?
Something I tried to do with this play is that because it’s call ‘The Canadians’, I can talk about Americans. Because I can talk about gay Canadians I can talk about ‘How are we treating gay Americans?’ I hope I’ve shown that we are a wild and wooly group full of laughter and the ability to look at ourselves—that Canadians care about community a great deal and see how valuable it is to strengthen your community and not just yourself.
The Canadians runs through October 20th at South Coast Repertory. Tickets are still available and start at $24. For more information, contact visit SCR.org.