Originally written (and performed) by Dave Deveau, My Funny Valentine is a play based around the true story of a gay teen who was killed by his classmate in 2008. The narrative weaves through the surrounding community in the aftermath, and shows us the ways they are processing (or not processing) their grief, and the ripple effect this murder has had on a larger community.
The current production playing in the intimate cabaret space at Buddies in Bad Times, directed by Cameron Mackenzie and performed by Conor Wylie, is still a bit shaky on its feet and doesn’t quite hit the mark, but is nonetheless endearing.
This is a one-man show, involving several different characters from a young girl to a few different teachers at the school, men and women, to an angry repressed homophobic father of one of the other students. In other words, the actor in question needs an enormous range and a lot of tools in their performance toolbox. Wylie’s portrayal of a teenage girl early on, for example, is overly exaggerated and clownish in a way that I found alienating and inauthentic. It’s true that when men portray female characters, especially young female characters, the performance can easily appear ridiculous partly due to entrenched social misogyny. Nevertheless, that’s what makes it even more important that male actors do not exaggerate, because it ends up making the character ridiculous, which was the unfortunate effect here.
Wylie did better with other characters, notably one of the high school teachers who spends his monologue eating a chocolate bar and musing over how much attention to give the social justice issues he faces as an educator. For some reason in this scene Wylie entirely dropped into the moment, very present, and for that reason he had my attention for that entire section. He also went on to perform other female characters well, like the little girl at the end of the show who is so impactful that she should be the last character to appear to highlight that this is, despite some deep and darker moments, essentially a hopeful piece.