Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Splendor in the reeds

I know it sounds too cute to say that the only time I’ve ever been in the Fens, the busiest gay cruising area in Boston without soap dispensers, was to see some theater. It’s less believable than reading Playboy for the articles (actually, I did that as a kid). Nevertheless, I made my virgin visit to the Fens last year to see “A Street Theater Named Desire,” performed by the members of the Theater Offensive. The production is not really out of place here, though the actors seemed to show more skin — and less age — than the average audience member. Each show (there are several spread out over a few early-morning hours) runs about 15 minutes and includes vignettes about safer sex. In one that I saw last summer, a guy asked a stranger for sex and got the response, “Are you sure? Are you positive?” It is startling to see both obviously gay and “straight-acting” men of all ages emerge from the towering weeds when TO actors take their places in a clearing and loudly announce that a show is about to begin — which they do by loudly simulating sexual passion. It’s kind of like little boys running out of suburban houses when they here an ice-cream struck on their street. (Maybe the “Send in the Clowns” ice-cream truck would do well with a theater concession here.) “A Street Theater Named Desire” takes place on weekends during the summer, and the TO site often has free bottled water, bug spray, and Dunkin’ Donuts snacks, as well as condoms and safer-sex literature. Though the peak audience seems to come after the bars close, there are plenty of men here well before 2 a.m., thanks to guys too young to legally drink and men too frugal to buy more than a beer or two in one evening. (I guess there will never be enough business to open a replacement for Dedo in Boston.) The TO crew sets up in a large area accessible via paths that snake through well-tended — even Felix Ungeresque — community gardens and then through the light-pole-sized wild reeds. But just follow the foot traffic from Boylston Street and you’ll find it.

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