'Gay for Pay with Blake and Clay'

The Studio Theatre at Crow's Theatre

The Studio Theatre at Crow's Theatre

Joe Szekeres

A tasteful amuse-bouche of smiles and laughter. ‘Gay for Pay’ is that fire log of humour we need for a cold fall night.”

I heard this Québecois description from the show and am stealing it for the headline.

The title ‘Gay for Pay’ may sound a bit questionable at first glance, but there’s no need to read anything into the title.

I can understand why it won the 2022 Second City Outstanding Comedy award at Toronto Fringe just this past summer. ‘Gay for Pay’ is a laugh-out-loud lecture of two gay actors Blake and Clay (Daniel Krolik and Jonathan Wilson) who deliver a 7 part-hour-long-acting class to heterosexual student actors (the audience) on how to play gay in order to get that part because, as we’re told throughout the course of the class, ‘representation matters’.

A brief PowerPoint presentation of heterosexual celebrities who have played gays in a feature film (Tom Hanks in Philadelphia and Sean Penn in Milk are just two mentioned) is also discussed.

As lecturers, Blake and Clay, Daniel Krolik and Jonathan Wilson are high-voltage bro-sprites who lit up the Studio Theatre with their boyish charm, twinkling eyes and elfish smiles. Their frenetic, workout, energetic back-and-forth movement on the Studio Theatre stage to ensure they maintain eye contact as much as possible with the audience remains remarkable Krolik and Wilson are not out of breath at the end.

Not once, though, did I feel uncomfortable watching the production.

For starters, this is not an audience participation play, thank God. Neither Krolik nor Wilson picks audience members to come up and be part of the action. Instead, they will turn to the audience and ask for responses to be called out. That was a smart choice Daniel, Jonathan and director Curtis Campbell made because the production is not meant to be about us or our beliefs on how we feel about what we are seeing. The focus duly and rightly remains on Krolik and Wilson to tell the story with pure rapturous wit. And they succeeded in their task.

Let’s face it – humour allows us to face the sometimes-harsh realities of life again and again. I’m hoping that’s what director Curtis Campbell intended for ‘Gay for Pay’ because that’s what I saw. I didn’t see any hidden 2SLGTBQ+ agenda behind the production, and I wasn’t looking for one.

The late Joan Rivers once stated that after the horrors of 9/11 where would we be if we didn’t have the chance to laugh? In the film version of ‘Steel Magnolias’, the late Olympia Dukakis stated: “Things were getting mighty too serious, and we needed to laugh.”

Right now, our province is faced with so much seriousness as we enter another Covid ridden winter and spring with the question of vaccines, masks, illness, and hospitalizations that I felt I wanted to leave that to the side for a while and just need to laugh.

And I did. Thank you to Curtis Campbell, Daniel Krolik and Jonathan Wilson for allowing me to do so.

Final Comments: Recently, the romantic comedy feature film ‘Bros’ (which dealt with two gay men who avoid commitment but are drawn to each other) was artistically excellent but poorly received at the box office. I haven’t seen the film so it’s not fair to comment on it. The comments I did read or heard either online or in the news stated audiences at that time were just not interested in it – whether it was for the storyline I can’t say since I haven’t seen it.

I may watch the film soon.

I went to see ‘Gay for Pay’ instead and so should you.

What makes it worthwhile is Krolik and Wilson’s infectious warmth and sheer appreciation of being in front of an audience to tell a story, not their truth, but a story that put a smile on my face.

As I said earlier, we have a lot to contend with right now – mask-wearing, maintaining distance indoors once again, the top Ontario doctor Kieran Moore who didn’t wear a mask at an indoor party – that weighs us down once again.

‘Gay for Pay’ lifts the spirit up on a cold fall night.

Running Time: approximately one hour with no intermission.

‘Gay for Pay with Blake and Clay’ runs to November 27 in the Studio Theatre at Streetcar Crowsnest, 345 Carlaw Avenue, Toronto. For tickets, call the box office (647) 341-7390 ex 1010 or visit crowstheatre.com.

‘Gay for Pay with Blake and Clay’ by Curtis Campbell and Daniel Krolik
A Gay for Pay Production in association with Crows Theatre
Produced by Rachel Kennedy
Directed by Curtis Campbell
Stage Manager: James Hyatt

Performers: Daniel Krolik and Jonathan Wilson

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