November 2008: the comedy team of Steve Hayes and Tom Cayler premiere Stories We Tell Ourselves, a rollicking film noir homage, at the Pontine Theatre in Portsmouth, NH. True, that location might be unconventional, but Hayes and Cayler are unconventional artistic partners. Hayes is an out gay actor whose glorious, ebullient mug is unmistakable: If you don’t know him from his three awards from the Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs, or from playing God in the recent film The Big Gay Musical, you’ll recognize him from the 1999 film Trick, in which he played Perry. He has co-written several musicals and won a 2006 New York International Fringe Festival Award for a bit of waddling fun called The Penguin Tango (my Back Stage review is here). Cayler, who is straight, also collects of awards: an Obie (for Rosalyn Drexler’s A Matter of Life and Death), a Screenwriting fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and grants from the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. Not laughing now, are ya?
In Stories We Tell Ourselves — which played to capacity crowds in New York during the summer and is returning for a run through Nov. 17 at Don’t Tell Mama — Hayes and Cayler play, um, two men named Steve and Tom. They met in AA years ago, these two, but were equally bonded together by their love of film noir. As the play begins, they have been fired from their jobs (the typical recession story) and that complicates their production of a public-access program devoted to their favorite cinematic style. That, in turn, causes one of them to go on a bender. Recovery and noir-like adventures quickly ensue. Kevin Malony, the downtown doyen and founder/artistic director of Tweed Theaterworks, directs.
For tickets to Stories We Tell Ourselves, click here or call 212-757-0788; for more information on the show, call 212-663-1365.
And now, 5 questions Steve Hayes has never been asked:
1) What’s the most perceptive question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
How much of your therapy have you worked through in your act so as not to pay a shrink?
2) What’s the most idiotic question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
3) What’s the weirdest question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
Do you find that your characters are all basically off-shoots of one disturbed personality?
4) What does being part of a comedy team with a straight man give you, as a gay man, that being part of a comedy team with another gay man could not give you?
It gives you a different take on similar situations. Depending on where each of your priorities might be concerning various life experiences, you may find that you come at the same situations differently and either do or don’t end up with the same results. Having different priorities and moral and ethical values can offer both insightful and comedic setups. Something a straight man might assume to be as inherently masculine behavior might seem ridiculous to a gay man or vice versa — it’s these differences and similarities that we try and examine through our two actor, multicharacter comedies.
5) The plot of Stories We Tell Ourselvesis fun and involved-from the post-AA bender of one of the characters to the appearance of legendary actors of film noir. More than 60 years after film noir’s heyday, though, why do you think audiences (and you and Tom) are still obsessed with it? Could film noir ever make a serious comeback?
God, I hope so. I think film noir appeals to people because it’s the “cinema of moods”: the convoluted plots, the pristine black-and-white cinematography, the lack of light, the use of shadows, the claustrophobic atmosphere where danger is always just around the corner, the lush music that fortells and interprets every action and reaction. The heroes are often average Joes: flip, laconic, yet so masculine. They’re down-on-their-luck types who can’t get a break and can’t control their desires for a quick fix or a fast woman. More often than not, the women are stronger then the men. Often two-dimensional and always glamorous, they’re beautiful, dangerous, enticing and just out of reach — the Bitch Goddesses — fascinating creatures meant to be loved, looked at, worshipped from afar and never trusted too much. I can’t get enough of ’em.
6) Do people still ask you about Trick? What about a Trick II: Their First Anniversary? Or Trick II: Perry’s Whoredom?
People ask me about Trick all the time and I’m always thrilled when they do. I think it’s a funny, romantic and heartwarming picture. I attended a Trick 10-year anniversary party in Hollywood over the summer and everyone commented on how often we’re approached individually by people who tell us how much Trick meant to them. There’s a whole generation of gay people for whom Trick was the movie that helped them come out of the closet. I think that’s something to be very proud of. As far as a sequel, who knows? A lot of middle-aged people commented on the fact that my character, Perry, had a nice love story and how pleased they were to see gay people of different ages represented and have viable story lines. I’ll always be grateful to have been a part of Trick.