Friday, 11 December 2015


I must say I have mixed feelings about Paul Gross. Mainly because he is so beautiful.
When I was a young, semi-handsome gay playwright desperately running a theatre company so that I could get my plays produced, he was a supremely handsome, younger, straight playwright with the world at his feet.  
Also, I have always wanted to lick him all over — and only Martha Burns gets to do that — which makes me cranky.
I only met Paul Gross once, when I was having lunch with Jackie Burroughs in Yorkville. She dragged me over to his table and gushed in her irresistibly childlike way— “Oh you just have to meet Paul Gross! You would love him, and he would love you!”
Sadly all that ‘loving’ never came to pass. But that doesn't mean I can’t be objective about the play Paul Gross is starring in — Domesticated (recently produced by Company Theatre at Canadian Stage). 
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not going to review the damn thing. These plays that come from New York City are pre-reviewed anyway; what we say about them (way up here in the provinces!) doesn’t really matter.
But I must say I am fascinated by what these American cultural products are selling. And in this case it was clear to me that Domesticated makes a very sharp, entertaining, and carefully crafted case for ‘men’s liberation.’
Men’s liberation — in case you haven’t noticed — is a growing movement in North America. Straight men everywhere are getting a little tired of feminists pushing them around. Poor boys —  they’ve been blamed for everything — when most of them are just nice guys who happen to get a little horny now and then. And sure — and they acknowledge this — they might also be, occasionally, just a teeny-weeny bit insensitive once in awhile. But hey — being horny and insensitive -- isn't that what being a real man is all about?
Though playwright Bruce Norris has laboured to convince us he has created a balanced view of the feminist cause and its effects, Domesticated is clearly focused on the leading male character’s journey. The leading female character never gets to articulate her rage, she just gets to break his (spoiler alert!) guitar.
Afterwards I chatted with two female friends and one female acquaintance about the piece. I was astounded. My two friends agreed with my opinions about it. But the third (younger) woman expressed a surprising idea: “I didn’t think it was an anti-feminist play,” she said “I mean Paul Gross’s character was so obviously an asshole.”
I looked at her, knowing I might regret playing the ‘age’ card.  “Are you a millennial?” I asked?
“”I’m on the cusp,” she said.
“Well I’m awfully sorry, and this is going to sound very condescending,” I said “but I’m very very old, and I noticed that millenials have a tendency to be overly cheery when confronted with racism, sexism and homophobia. They’ve been brought up in a product-oriented, celebrity dominated cyber-world where everything is nice (except for the occasional comment on Facebook). You young’ uns  just figure racism, misogyny and homophobia  are over; that everyone is ‘super aware’ of what is right and what is wrong. I glanced at a middle-aged men sitting next to me at Domesticated, and when Paul Gross’s character was raging against feminism, he was leaning forward, drinking it in; the play was speaking directly to him.”
“She screwed up her attractive face. 
“Hmm. I don’t get it.”
And this young woman is actually very smart.
Be forewarned; Domesticated is not just your garden variety anti-feminist diatribe — it’s for everyone. And millenials, especially, like it too.