It’s unfortunate it’s the case, but Black Elephant’s inaugural production of “Gross Indecency” couldn’t come at a more opportune moment. Given the spate of news stories involving gay-bashing and bullying, its message is more than timely. Director Michael Rashid’s eye for context makes the production all the more astounding.
In a gay bar in the modern day, a number of bar patrons decide to stage a production of “Gross Indecency,” eschewing English accents for the most part and making the best of their largely leather and tennis shoe wardrobes. Following Oscar Wilde’s litigious conflicts involving his alleged homosexual affairs, the play ends with his ultimate banishment from society and imprisonment.
What’s remarkable is that Rashid made sure the framing device follows a narrative arc as well. Rather than simply dressing his actors up as two-dimensional queeny barflies, he has them be moved by the story they tell as it ultimately reflects their own. Sometimes the two worlds collide awkwardly—for instance, it’s unclear why the bar patrons would have an intact copy of a period magazine—but details like that can be forgiven in an otherwise lovingly handled production. (Neal Ryan Shaw)
Black Elephant Theatre at the Raven Theatre, 6157 North Clark, (800)838-3006. Through November 14.