HOT EVENTS MGT MAGAZINE VISITING ARCHIVE MGT PARTNERS MGT TEAM
My Gay Toronto - MGT Stage

The Seat Next to the King: gay interracial sex is more powerful than fear
23 September 2017.


by Drew Rowsome
- Photos by Michael Yaneff, ForeshotsPhotography.com

There are few things more gratifying than a specifically political play that is also wildly entertaining. Add two actors at the top of their game and The Seat Next to the King is a must see. Kwaku Okyere and Conor Ling portray two historical figures at the point in time where the civil rights movement was in its infancy and the gay rights movement was just a dream. The two meet in a public washroom and being a cat and mouse courtship that leads to a glorious gay sex scene that is not only erotic but so grounded in well-defined characters that it drives the plot forward and is actually integral to it. 

There is no evidence that Bayard Rustin and Walter Jenkins (google them, it is worth your time for a crucial bite of gay history) actually met but it is quite likely they at least met in passing. And it isn't that much of a leap for playwright Steven Elliott Jackson (Real Life SuperheroThreesome) to, in the closeted times when tea room cruising was one of the few options, put them side by side at urinals and then in a cheap motel room. They both were powerful men in US politics who had been sidelined by their gayness. That The Seat Next to the King plays as a historical recreation is a testament to much research and clever subtle exposition, that it is so riveting is due to the dynamic of two characters playing a cat-and-mouse game of desire.

Kwaku Okyere has the showier role, balancing on the edge of flamboyant queeniness and butch assertion. He also gets the best lines. That the comedy is excruciatingly uncomfortable - and hence intensely funny - is due to an unavoidable acknowledgement that the progress in race relations that we are so smug about, has not progressed all that much. He also has to convince us that he could fall in love/lust with a man who is brutally repressed/oppressed about his sexuality (it helps that both are exceedingly attractive men). It is only after the curtain call that one pauses to consider that it is unlikely that a gay man, especially one who seems so in tune with his desires, would invest so much time and energy into a sexual encounter. But that may be revisionist on my part.

Conor Ling is tightly wound and anyone who has desired something intensely but been told it was wrong, will ache for him. His eyes dart, revealing his secrets, and the two volley the lines and movements so smoothly that The Seat Next to the King achieves a realism, so much verisimilitude, that it plays as a documentary. A documentary that is well-written and witty.

There are a few quibbles but again they only surface after the relentless forward motion of the narrative allows for reflection. The narrative of the black man liberating a white man is still an iffy proposition but that they are as equal as they could be in that time period, evens the playing field. And it is crucial that the ideas of race - fetishization, the sense of other, stereotypes - get explored and stated to show just how far we haven't come.

At one point the naturalism is broken and while it is a clever idea and theatrically apt, it only happens once and the crack in the fourth wall pushed the audience out of the play momentarily. Director Tanisha Taitt (Sister Act) keeps the tension racheted with smooth choreography that only reveals itself as staging in afterthought. Even the lengthy, necessary scene changes are solved by transforming them into rituals, uncovering and building with simple props becoming a metaphor for the work the men, and by extension us, have to do in order to connect across arbitrary barriers.

But most importantly, The Seat Next to the King is a crowd-pleaser. This version is a remount of the hit Fringe Festival version and kudos to The Theatre Centre for giving those of us who missed it (it was sold out consistently as this remount will likely be), a chance to see this powerful play. A play that is brutally cathartic in these times where black lives and gay lives are once again under attack, and are still struggling to work together. One longs for a happy ending where the two men had a rom-com ending and then worked to change the world. The Seat Next to the King will inspire and initiate debate and that can only be good. 

The Seat Next to the King runs until Sun, Oct 1 at The Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen St W. theatrecentre.org, minmargaslightproductions.com

RELATED ARTICLES / ARCHIVE:
- Review: A Christmas Carol: not even a Scrooge could resist - Dec '17
- Review: House Guests - Nov '17
- Review: 5 Guys Chillin' - Nov '17
- Review: Triptyque: choreographing the circus - Nov '17
- Review: The 29th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee - Nov '17
- Review: Grease: "It's got groove it's got meaning" - Nov '17
- Review: The Goat or, Who is Sylvia? Edward Albee's provocation gets a stellar subversive production - Nov '17
- Review: Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools and the artistic struggle of cultural connection - Oct '17
- Review: Bat Out of Hell: a spectacular guilty pleasure with leather lungs - Oct - '17
- Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: metaphor made into theatrical magic - Oct '17
- Review: Flashing Lights: fable and art - Oct '17
- Review: Undercover - Sep '17
- Review: North by Northwest: a giddy delirious thriller - Sep '17
- Review: Turtleneck: sex, violence, porn and red hot hilarity - Sep - '17
- Review: Hedwig and the Angry Inch: escaping the dungeon of gender, Hart House and rock n roll - Sep '17
- Review: The Seat Next to the King: gay interracial sex is more powerful than fear - Sep '17
- Review: Volta: the magic of the circus thrives - Sep '17
- Review: Pippi - Aug - '17
- Review: Permanence - Jul '17
- Review: King Lear - Jul '17
- Review: Cavalia - Jul '17
- Review: Beautiful - Jul - '17
- Review: 8 Morro & Jasp In Stupefaction - Jun '17
- Review: The Lavender Railroad - Jun '17
- Review: Showstopper - Jun - '17
- Review: Youth/Elder Project- Jun '17
- Review: Situational Anarchy- May '17
- Review: It's All Tru!- May - '17
- Review: The Return (il ritorno): Circa ...- May '17
- Review: Midsummer (a play with songs)...- May '17
- Review: Prince Hamlet - Apr '17
- Review: 887: memory becomes extraordinary - Apr '17
- Review: Little Pretty and The Exceptionals - Apr '17
- Review: Jack Charles v The Crown - Apr '17
- Review: A Kiss with a vicious bite - Mar '17
- Review: Souzatzka - Mar '17
- Review: Mrs Henderson Presents - Mar '17
- Review: Blood Weddings - Mar '17
- Review: Book Of Mormon - Mar '17
- Review: Cirkopolis - Mar '17
- Review: The Bodyguard - Feb '17
- Review: Five Faces for Evelyn Frost - Feb '17
- Review: My Night with Reg - Feb '17
- Review: Blue Remembered Hills - Feb '17
- The 38th Rhubarb Festival - Feb '17
- Review: James and the Giant Peach - Feb '17
- Review: Carrie - Jan '17
- Review: Audience - Jan '17
- Review: Sisters Act - Dec '16
- Review: Who Killed Spalding Gray? - Dec '16
- Review: Swan - Nov '16
- Review: Cuisine & Confessions - Nov '16
- Review: The (Post) Mistress - Oct '16
- Review: The Circle: the kids are not alright - Oct '16
- Review: Birdtown and Swanville - Oct '16
- Review: Late Night - Oct '16
- Review: Concord Floral - Oct '16
- Review: Blind Date - Sep '16
- Review: Pearle Harbour - Sep '16
- Review: West Side Story - Aug '16
- Review: Chippendales - Aug '16
- Review: Mr Shi and His Lover - Aug '16
- Review: Tomorrow's Child, NO FUN - Aug '16
- Review: Thank You For Being A Friend - Aug '16
- Review: Luzia - Jul '16
- Review: Peter and the Starcatcher - Jul '16
- Review: Shakespeare in High Park II - Jul '16
- Review: Shakespeare in High Park I - Jul '16
- Review: Bright Lights - Jul '16
- Review: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat - Jun '16
- Review: Forever Plaid - May '16
- Review: A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder - May '16
- Review: The Closet - May '16
- Review: Mousetrap - May '16
- Review: Botticelli in the Fire & Sunday in Sodom - May '16
- Review: Anne of Green Gables - Apr '16
- Review: Scarberia - Apr '16
- Review: If-Then - Apr '16
- Review: The Wizard of Oz - Apr '16
- Review: The Terrible Parents - Apr '16
- Review: The Judas Kiss - Mar '16
- Review: The Crackwalker - Mar '16
- Review: No Strings (Attached) - Mar '16
- Review: Gertrude and Alice - Mar '16
- Review: Line In Sand - Mar '16
- Review: Boeing Boeing - Feb '16
- Review: Salt-Water Moon - Feb '16
- Review: Contempt - Feb '16
- Review: Anything Goes - Feb '16
- Review: Mustard - Feb '16
- Review: Into The Woods - Jan '16
- Review: Heart Of Steal - Jan '16
- Review: Toruk - Jan '16
- Review: The Gay Heritage Project - Jan '16
- Review: Elizabeth - Darcy - Dec '15
- Review: Peter Pan in Wonderland - Dec '15
- Review: Cinderella - Dec '15
- Review: Mombay Black - Nov '15
- Review: Paradise Lost - Nov '15
- Review: Wormwood - Nov '15
- Review: Banana Boys - Nov '15
- Review: Legally Blonde - Oct '15
- Review: The Baby - Oct '15
- Review: An Enemy of the People - Oct '15
- Review: They Say He Fell - Oct '15
- Review: Buddy Holly - Oct '15
- Review: Seance - Sep '15
- Review: Like A Generation - Sep '15
- Review: 20th November - Sep '15
- Review: Empire - Sep '15
- Review: Big Plans - Sep '15
- Review: The Marquise of O - Aug '15
- Review: An Evening in July - Aug '15
- Review: Love + Hate - Aug '15
- Review: MacArthur Park Suite - Aug '15
- Review: Obeah - Aug '15
- Review: Mary Poppins - Jul '15
- Review: Julius Caesar... - Jul '15
- Review: Gimme Shelter - Jul '15
- Review: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - Jul '15
- Review: Superhero - Jul '15
- Review: Kinki Boots - Jul '15
- Review: First Time Last Time - Jun '15
- Review: The Love Crimes of Frances Lark - Jun '15
- Review: Ballad of the Burning Star - May '15
- Review: Mr Burns - May '15
- Review: Morro and Jasp - May '15
- Review: American Idiot - May '15
- Review: Liver - May '15
- Review: Sweeney Todd - May '15
- Review: Tom at the Farm - Apr '15
- Review: Ubu and the Truth Commission - Apr '15
- Review: HairSpray - Apr '15
- Nature of the Beast purrs and bites - Mar '15
- Review: The Daisy Theatre - Mar '15
- Review: Dinner with Casey - Mar '15
- Review: Cake and Dirt - Mar '15
- Review: Faulty Towers - Mar '15
- Review: Brain Food - Mar '15
- Cake and Dirt - Mar '15
- This is for You, Anna - Mar '15
- Cannibal - Feb '15
- Spring Awakening is on the verge of blossoming - Feb '15
- Jesus Christ Superstar / Heart House - Jan '15
- Waiting Room - Jan '15
- Review: Jesus Christ Superstar - Dec '14
- Sharron and George’s Christmas Sing-A-Long - Dec '14
- Jesus Christ Superstar - Dec '14
- Review: A Christmas Carol - Dec '14
- Review: Cinderella - Nov '14
- Review: Metropolitan Operas - Nov '14
- Review: Sextet - Nov '14
- Review: Opus - Nov '14
- Review: Take Me Back To Jefferson - Nov '14
- Review: Evil Dead - Nov '14
- Review: The Art of Building a Bunker - Oct '14
- Review: Brotherhood - Oct '14
- Review: Femme Playlist - Oct '14
- The Hip Hopera - Oct '14
- Review: The Importance of Being Earnest- Sep '14
- Review: Freda And Jem- Sep '14
- Review: Hedwig- Sep '14
- Hair - Sep '14
- Summerworks - Aug '14
- Queers Bathroom Stories - Jun '14
- SpeakEasy - Jun '14
- Sharron Matthews and Gavin Crawford... - May '14
- Hackerlove & The Mystery of Edwin Drood - May '14
- Review: Headwig - May '14
- Headwig - Apr '14
- Review: Sound Of Music - Apr '14
- Review: Cock - Apr '14
- Review: 50 Shades - Apr '14
- Review: Me Talking to Myself...- Mar '14
- Review: Elegies - Mar '14
- Review: Marry Me a Little - Mar '14
- Review: Goodnight Desdemona... - Mar '14
- Review: A Beautiful View - Mar '14
- Review: Same Same but Different - Feb '14
- Review: Shrew - Feb '14
- Review: Genesis & Other - Feb '14
- Firebrand: When history burns - Feb '14
- Review: Heartbeat of Home - Feb '14
- Review: Cabaret - Feb '14
- Review: London Road - Jan '14
- Review: Once Upon This Island - Jan '14
- Review: The Way Back to Thursday - Jan '14
- Review: Manon, Sandra... - Jan '14
- Wedding Singer - Jan '14
- Manon, Sandra and the Virgin Mary - Jan '14
- Little Shop of Horrors - Dec '13
- Fear of commitment, but... - Dec '13
- A big splash of holiday cheer - Nov '13
- Needles And Opium - Nov '13
- Gay Heritage Project - Nov '13
- There Is No Lock... - Nov '13
- Sensual thrills in the dark - Nov '13
- No safe word - Nov '13
- Demoniacally delightful song and dance and gore - Nov '13
- Vampires, Judaism and wicked fun with grief - Oct '13
- We all love Lucy - Oct '13
- Freak Flags Conquer - Oct '13
- A Visitation from Aphrodite - Oct '13
- A Comic Tail of Staggering Genius - Sep '13
- We're All Pigs - Sep '13
- Abnormally intimate - Sep '13
- Men Behind Bars - Sep '13
- Lighting up the dark - Aug '13
- Double duty, a foursome and puppets - Aug '13
- Upton Abbey - Aug '13
- Sunny with 100 chance of puppets - Jul '13
- Review: Macbeth at Shakespeare in High Park - Jul '13
- Review: Class Dismissed - Jul '13
- Review: Avenue Q - Jul '13
- Review: Cats - Jun '13
- Review: Happiness returns - May '13
- Review: The Bone House - May '13
- Review: Of a Monstrous Child - May '13
- Stopheart - May '13
- Of a Monstrous Child - Apr '13
- Race - Mar '13
- Dancing With Rage - Mar '13
- Romeo and Juliet - Feb '13
- 35th RHUBARB & Japanese high-tech theatre - Jan '13
- Wizard Of Oz - Dec '12
- Tchaikovsky Spectacular - Nov '12
- La Cage Aux Folles - Oct '12
- Pilitical Mother - Sep '12
- Midsummer Night's Dream - Aug '12
- Fringe Festival - Jul '12
- Festival For Community - Jun '12
- Cavalia Odysseo - May '12
- Amy & Freddy - May '12
- The Game of Love and Chance - Apr '12
- My Granny The GoldFish - Mar '12
- Zeo Hour - Mar '12
- 33rd Rhubarb Festival - Feb '12
- Cabaret - Jan '12
- American Idiot - Jan '12
- The Nutcracker - Dec '11
- Mary Poppins - Nov '11
- Romeo And Juliet - Nov '11
- The Normal Heart - Oct '11
- Another Africa - Sep '11
- Singing Strong & The Maids - Aug '11
- The Glass Menagerie - Jul '11
- Operation Impervious - Jul '11
- Toronto Jazz Festival - Jun '11
- TRIGGER Festival - Jun '11
- Jesus Christ Superstar - Jun '11
- TIGTROPHE - May '11
- AGOKWE - Apr '11
- The Best Man - Mar '11
- SPIN - Mar '11
- Billy Elliot - Jan '11