On Wednesday night, I had the fortune of joining a friend to see The Body Politic, a brand new play, written by Nick Green and directed by Alisa Palmer, developed in-house at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. Going into the play, I knew very little about what it would be about. I knew it had something to do with Canada’s first gay liberation newspaper and Operation Soap, a raid on four local bathhouses in 1981, which resulted in one of the largest mass arrests in Canada.
The play follows an aging gay man who has impulsively invited the hot barista from his regular coffee joint to his apartment. But once the young man arrives, he finds himself making startling connections to his time as a youthful queer, a part of a collective that launched a newspaper called The Body Politic and the legal, moral, and emotional battles that would subsequently follow.
The performances of Diane Flacks, Aldrin Bundoc, and Cole Alvis were most notable in an entire cast of fantastic actors. These characters are the catalyzing voices that really drive home the messages I imagine Green was trying express.
To enter the theatre we walked past lines of dangling telephone receivers, bobbing on those old spiral cords. Picking up the receivers, you could hear looped phone calls recreating the telephone tree that organized the rally in response to Operation Soap.
With a minimal but imaginative set, just translucent walls setting up the frame of a small apartment, pushing one room front and center. It gave a pointed perspective that the shadowy scenes going on behind the translucent walls inform the scenes happening in front.
While the play does acknowledge that The Body Politic most often only amplified the voices of white gay men, its cast only includes two characters that do not fall under this moniker. This becomes slightly more concerning when the only non-white character makes little to no reference to being non-white. While I felt this could have (and should have) been explored more, I felt that this was a single slight against an otherwise perfect score.
The Body Politic is an emotionally evocative play that touches on many important issues that rocked the gay and lesbian community during the hay day of the paper, that still affect the community to this day. It explores the intergenerational differences and similarities that divides and unites activists across the ages.