Legislating Love: The Everett Klippert Story – Players’ Theatre – Review
by Gearóid O’Byrne
Part of the IDGTF
Date/Time: 14 May @ 16:00 (Matinees); 9-14 May @ 19:30 (Evenings);
Venue: Players’ Theatre @ Trinity College
This one-act play at the Players’ Theatre, TCD Dublin, is presented this week as part of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival by Theatre Outre and Route One Productions from Canada. Written by Natalie Meisner, it tells the story of Everett Klippert, the last man in Canada to be tried, convicted and jailed for homosexuality before it was decriminalised in 1969.
We first meet Everett (Matt McKinney) as a kindly bus driver in Calgary who bends the rules to wait for a young man (Handsome – Jay Whitehead) to board the bus. They strike up a conversation, realising they both may have common interests. The action then shifts a half-century to where the same young man, now an elderly resident in a care facility, is visited by shy lesbian student Maxine (Kathy Zaborsky) who is researching the story of Everett and wants to interview people who knew him. And so the play progresses, switching between the developing relationship between Everett and Handsome, and the tension between the elderly Handsome and Maxine. The elderly Handsome is a curmudgeonly character with some acidic humour and it takes time for the pair to open up to each other.
Everett is presented as a man born ahead of his time, unafraid to be a gay man in an unaccepting society, who pays the ultimate price by being repeatedly imprisoned. Handsome, however, is more typical of their generation. Believing that it will never be possible for him to be openly gay, he extols the virtue of a “lavender” marriage to Everett, advising him to marry to provide a respectable cover while finding transient man to man relationships on the side. Handsome takes that road, becoming a respectable citizen with a wife and two children, however, his bitterness reveals a sadness for a life he felt unable to lead openly with Everett. With his wife now dead, he is still unable to come out to his children and grandchildren.
This is a largely hagiographical piece about Everett, he is presented as a hero for living his authentic life in a deeply homophobic society. The only support he appears to get is from his sister Leah who pursues various appeals to try and get him released.
In terms of gay history, this is a reminder of the pain and suffering that gay people went through in the past and the bravery and courage of certain individuals which ultimately led to decriminalisation in Canada.
All events for the final week of the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival can be viewed and booked at www.gaytheatre.ie