Village People

Rania Salem Manganaro and Matthew Greer
Matthew Murphy

Historical, rhetorical and phantasmagorical, Ike Holter’s explosive extravaganza Hit the Wall (Barrow Street Theatre) depicts the Stonewall Riots as a series of snap-fights and bitch battles that escalate to such a fever pitch during the nights of June 27 and 28, 1969, that they become the shade thrown around the world. 

Aided by Eric Hoff’s fifth-gear direction, not to mention a live rock band, this thrilling gay fantasia on national themes delivers more spectacle than theater. As the community it depicts careens toward the imminent riot, Holter’s script serves fierce hyperrealness overflowing with gay slang, banter, rhythm, and sometimes—why not?—rhyme.

Each character in the ensemble represents a demographic as much as a person: a black guy, a Latino, a blue-collar lesbian, a small-town white boy, a bourgeois businessman deemed an “A-gay,” a black hippie lesbian, a black drag queen, a cop—you’d think there’d be a construction worker and an Indian, too. At times these archetypes lurch into stereotypes, as when the Latino character unironically pulls a switchblade.

What lifts Hit the Wall above queer propaganda, however, is Hoff’s insistence that the frustrations that produced the riot arose as much from infighting among the various groups as anger toward “the Man” and the policemen who continually raided gay clubs at his bidding. But arise they did, and if you say the plot’s predictable, well, you obviously weren’t there.

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