Teddy Ferrara review: a tangled play exploring homophobia, bullying and hate in the wake of tragedy

 
Steve Hogarty
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Gabe (Luke Newberry) and Jaq (Griffyn Gilligan) in Teddy Ferrara

Teddy Ferrara is a play that manages to say a very small amount about a great many things. It’s set around an American campus on which a dizzyingly comprehensive catalogue of LGBT issues are being tackled in the wake of a student suicide.

To unpack, Christopher Shinn’s play explores homophobia in both its standard and internalised flavours, as well as transphobia, ableism, racism, social exclusion, weaponised victimhood, blowies in the public toilet, exhibitionism and privacy, campus politics and journalistic ethics. The list really does go on.

This pinball machine of a show ricochets between big topics, sometimes covering ideas in as little as a line or two of dialogue before pinging away in the opposite direction of any kind of resolution or message.

The many hardships of different queer students’ lives are brutally summarised here. A disabled chap spends his time repeatedly failing to get laid, his disability rendering him near non-sexual in the eyes of the guys he pursues.

Gabe, the geeky head of the college’s queer students’ group on whom the play is focused, resents what he perceives to be a culture of victimhood among his peers. His needy, anti-Pride boyfriend Drew refuses to go to “self-segregating” gay bars. A trans character feels tacked on, singularly pursuing his own goals in a way that sits apart from anything else in the play.

Teddy Ferrara himself is a baggily dressed and uncomfortably weird gay freshman whose awkward appearance and stammering sputter snaps the room to attention whenever he shambles onstage.

But compelling as he is, the point of him is lost somewhere in this busy, busy play. By trying to say something about everything, not much is said.

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