12/24/2013 12:43 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Pushing the Envelope

Many claim that theater holds a mirror up to society. But all too often, when society gets a look at its reflection, the results are not pretty. Boris Aronson's famous set design for 1966's controversial Kander and Ebb musical, Cabaret, featured a mylar mirror suspended above the stage at such an angle that members of the audience seated on the main floor could see their reflections (almost like the ghosts of debauchery past) at various moments during the show.

Boris Aronson's set design for Cabaret

No matter how one dresses things up with sets and costumes, there is a certain element of truth telling that finds special power onstage. From the stock commedia dell'arte character of Arlecchino (Harlequin) to King Lear's fool; from the title character in Verdi's Rigoletto to Danny Kaye's performance in The Court Jester (1956), it is the hired buffoon who, though he be surrounded by liars and cheats, can speak the truth without fear of retaliation.

For monologists who write their own material, a fetid, fervid, fevered, and fustian imagination is the gift that keeps on giving. Consider Martin Dockery's bravura performance in the following clip:

Those who remember Mike Daisey's March 2012 mini-crisis (after questioning the integrity of Apple's labor practices in Chinese factories) won't be at all shocked to learn that Daisey has not let up in his angry quest for some solid truth telling. Here he is, at 2011's Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney, Australia, urging his audience to Kill The Corporation.

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A recent posting on Facebook led me to a fascinating article by Jen Dziura titled "When Life-Hacking is Really White Privilege." If 2013 ends on some notes of utter ridiculousness, there can be no doubt that some of the blame is due to Megyn Kelly's fatuous insistence that Santa Claus is white. Living in the intellectually challenged bubble known as the Fox News Channel, Ms Kelly obviously did not get the memo issued more than a decade ago from the producers of Queer Duck:

Directed by Joe Brancato and produced by Combined Artform, Jeffrey Solomon recently brought his one-man show titled Santa Claus Is Coming Out to the Eureka Theatre for a brief holiday run in San Francisco. It's a shame the opening night audience was so small because his monologue proved to be surprisingly touching and relevant.

The founding artistic director of Houses on the Moon Theatre Company, Solomon portrays 20 characters ranging from a flamboyant Hispanic queer to Mary Ellen Banfield (a conservative activist fighting to institute a "Santa No Fly Zone"); from Santa's agent to Santa's sexy Italian lover, Giovanni.

Poster art for Santa Claus Is Coming Out

According to Solomon, the play was inspired by the debate on providing gay role models to children, and the parents' rights movement to keep gay issues out of the classroom. His protagonist is an adolescent boy who wants a Barbie-like doll instead of a truck for Christmas (a phenomenon recently captured by Nick Corporon in his short film titled Barbie Boy).

While Gary's mother is willing to indulge her son's wishes, his macho father is much less understanding. Gary's letters to Santa ultimately convince the famous icon to come out of the closet, even if it means losing lucrative advertising contracts with megacorporations like Coca-Cola.

Solomon's astutely written monologue takes some interesting twists and turns. What ultimately wins over the audience is his genuine warmth as an actor. The following clip from one of Solomon's other monologues (MotherSON) gives a sample of his dramatic range.

To read more of George Heymont go to My Cultural Landscape