Nathan Cuckow and Chris Craddock in Bash'd
(© Carol Rosegg)
Nathan Cuckow and Chris Craddock in Bash'd
(© Carol Rosegg)
After receiving well deserved accolades for its run at last year's New York International Fringe Festival, Canadians Chris Craddock and Nathan Cuckow's self-described "gay rap opera" Bash'd has transferred to a commercial run at the Zipper Factory. While the current incarnation of the show is timed to coincide with New York's Gay Pride festivities, this is a truly remarkable production that would be welcome any time of the year.

The two-hander tells the story of teenage lovers Jack (Craddock) and Dylan (Cuckow), who meet, fall in love, and get married once Canada passes its 2005 Civil Marriage Act. However, after Jack is savagely beaten by gay bashers, the couple must deal with the fear and rage that it engenders. Dylan, in particular, feels an anger borne of helplessness, and takes to the streets looking to perpetrate the same kind of violence on heterosexuals that is visited upon gay men like Jack.

Craddock and Cuckow's clever rhymes and strong storytelling skills provide a potent mixture of comedy and drama. The musical is narrated by the humorously named T-Bag and Feminem, with the writer/performers also playing a multitude of other roles throughout the show. They morph easily from character to character without sacrificing the deeply felt emotions that are being experienced.

The show's infectious music is by Aaron Macri, who lays down the beats, provides catchy hooks, and samples liberally from everything from Mozart's "Queen of the Night" aria to the Dream Academy's "Life in a Northern Town," The Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)," and Eminem's "Cleaning Out My Closet."

There have been a few changes since the Fringe run, including the addition of monogrammed costumes by Chase Tyler and a fabulous new lighting design by Bradley Clements that emphasizes the staged concert feel of the show while also reflecting the shifting tones of the dramatic action. The script has also seen a few tweaks, all for the better. For example, after Jack is gay-bashed, the perpetrators take his wedding ring, literally adding insult to injury and underscoring the perceived threat that the bashers feel in regards to gay marriages.

The end result is that Bash'd is an even stronger and more enjoyable show than it was at the Fringe. It also continues to send out a powerful anti-violence message. And while it may initially seem strange to see two white boys performing gay rap, any misgivings soon give way thanks largely to the duo's high-energy performance, which is oftentimes simply explosive.