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Leaving Metropolis

SILENCE = DRAMA

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Brad Fraser's Leaving Metropolis is an amiable little story that revolves around two sets of intersecting characters: David, a gay painter/sculptor who spends his time with Kryla, a newspaper columnist and natural woman, and Shannon, an HIV-positive pre-operative transsexual; and Matt and Violet, the owners of Winnipeg's homey Main Street Diner, and the two straightest people in gay-friendly Canada.

Matt (Vince Corazza) and Violet (Cherilee Taylor) are so straight that they don't know Shannon (Thom Allison) isn't a woman when she eats at their place. They're so straight that they don't know David (Troy Ruptash) is gay when he applies for a job as a waiter and corrects Matt, who calls him "Dave." They don't even figure it out when David tells them to buy mauve kale to decorate their plates ("What's kale?" Matt asks).

But when Matt calls him "buddy," David feels compelled to matter-of-factly out himself, and to question why they didn't already know. They take the news well enough. "He's pretty nice for a fag," Violet says after David leaves, and with the faintly uneasy look of a man about to discover he's gay, Matt replies, "Yeah."

From there, Leaving Metropolis unfolds familiarly, albeit pleasantly enough to recommend. Fraser, adapting his play, relies largely on what the characters don't say to each other to move things along. Kryla (Lynda Boyd) has an unspoken crush on David, David won't admit that he likes courting a "straight" guy, and Matt likes the fact that David, who's grown cold from witnessing so much death, doesn't question Matt's sexual see-sawing. ("Maybe 'fag' and 'lesbian' aren't nouns," David says, unconvincingly. "Maybe they're verbs.") You can call this subtle if you like, but I found it to be maddeningly uncomplicated: Why not have people challenge each other? This is not, after all, the sort of instructional drama that you'll mistake for real life anyway.

Fraser presents the sex in Leaving Metropolis frankly and without shame, and there's a touch of sweaty eroticism for everyone here, although the gaze falls most on male bodies. Matt's problem seems not to be his desire but rather his understanding of it. And so his struggle to come to terms and move on becomes more central to the drama than does the life of the character who's unabashedly gay from the start.

Fraser's title, by the way, refers to the hometown of Superman, whose legend looms in conversations between the characters. Matt once wanted to draw comic books; David likes the Man of Steel for his camp appeal. But both agree that Clark must absolutely tell Lois about his secret identity before they marry. It's a metaphor, you see, for the characters in the play, whose title on stage was Poor Super Man. And so, like a superhero comic book, it resolves its conflicts handily. To be screened by video projection.

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