Directed by Liam O’Brien
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
“Realising your gay is such a strange thing. I know it’s different for everyone but for everyone there is that moment when you must “Come Out” to yourself! This can happen years before you have the courage to come out to anybody else. But it is no less stressful.”
The only language unbecoming a lady like Diva Diana – or anyone attempting to discover oneself and maintain a strong self – is the language of self-doubt, self-effacement, and regret. Myles Breen’s play about his character Robert’s discovery of self is a testament to the struggle one faces in the midst of that journey when one realizes one is gay. Issues of family, friends, employers, classmates are embedded in Mr. Breen’s script and performance.
Although, regrettably, there is nothing new in “Language Unbecoming a Lady,” Mr. Breen’s play does make a powerful and important affirmation: the journeys of gay men (and other members of the LGBT communities) seems to be a universal one with milestones that members of those communities face and surmount worldwide. Robert’s “soulmate” in his journey is his alter ego – his drag character – Diva Diana and the short play uses the “inner” dialogue between Robert and Diana to highlight Robert’s sometimes difficult struggle to accept himself and then seek acceptance from others.
Diva Diana uses the lyrics of the iconic songbooks of Judy Garland, Barbara Streisand, Doris Day, Ethel Mermen, Peggy Lee, Donna Summers, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Perry Como. Mr. Breen does an admirable job of impersonation and lip-synching and – even after Robert “sheds” Diva Diana in his dressing room – continues to give Robert the strong persona of a middle-aged man reflecting on his life and his discovery of what is important ultimately in life’s complicated unfolding.
Myles Breen’s characterization of Robert and Diva Diana is well articulated, their conflicts are authentic and clear (though not unique), and the plot driven by these is believable and engaging. What is missing from “Language Unbecoming a Lady” is a sense of that rich environment of Ireland and its unique relationship to his journey.