‘Log Cabin’ A Bold Exploration of Queer Identities and Relationships

by | May 18, 2023 | ART, COMMUNITY, PERFORMING ARTS, QUEER RVA

It can be easy, and perhaps on occasion necessary, to put people into categories. Defining people and things into taxonomic groups is helpful in seeing patterns across large swathes of data, and referring to these by definable names helps us humans navigate a world that is complicated and increasingly so. But, so rarely are things dichotomous. Almost never is one either all in or all out. Throughout the last 50 years, the LGBTQIA+ community, whom I will be simply calling the Queer Community, has been grappling with this as more and more lifestyles have entered mainstream acceptance in American society — a long-overdue formality.

Log Cabin, the most recent production by Richmond Triangle Players, explores what happens when a complex community experiences different levels of that acceptance and what transpires when the fairy tale of love ends and the real world begins.

Let me get this out of the way: I identify as a member of the Queer Community. Which part? That shouldn’t matter. Asking that question unprompted when one doesn’t wish to share is like asking the details of someone’s genitals: if that information becomes pertinent to the relationship, it will be shared. Identifying as a single community breeds comradery in the face of adversity. It provides a place anyone identifying as Queer can safely signal to the wandering eye with questions on the tip of their tongue that, “Yes, I understand you have questions. My appearance, behavior, or name might be surprising. Here’s an easy answer: I’m not hurting anyone, I’ll tell you more if I wish to.”

On the other side, those who identify are not simply “queer”. There are so many identities, be they orientation or gender, such as homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, transgender, gender-queer, gender-fluid, non-binary, asexual (who might also be aromantic, but not always), polyamorous, lesbian, intersex; the list goes on. To make it simple, and to keep away from prying questions, a monolithic term is helpful. It becomes a dangerous precedent for how the world views the Queer Community when society starts painting this complicated community with a broad brush. What Log Cabin attempts to do, and I think largely succeeds at, is to show the nuances in a group that is as complex as the rest of the world is.

From left to right: Jacob LeBlanc as Ezra, Todd Patterson as Chris, Nora Ogunleye as Jules, Theresa Mantiply as Pam

Director Julie Fulcher-Davis has pulled off the dream by bringing together not only a production team that managed to produce a technically sound play but a cast that soars in their roles and brings buoyancy to a script that takes place almost entirely in a single room. On the technical side of Log Cabin, the scenic design of David Allan Ballas must be given its moment in the light. Not only did the production value feel high, as the play takes place in a financier’s high-end Brooklyn apartment, but it also offered an interesting dynamic with a second room that can only be seen properly in the right lighting.

The cast of characters includes Ezra and Chris, portrayed by Jacob LeBlanc and Todd Patterson, a male, cisgender, interracial homosexual couple, Jules and Pam portrayed by Nora Ogunleye and Theresa Mantiply, an interracial, female, cisgender, lesbian couple, and Henry and Myna portrayed by Kellan Oelkers and Madison Hatfield. It is within this final relationship that lies the crux of the drama, but we will return to that in a moment. Every actor excels, with Jacob LeBlanc standing out to me as their character is given the most internal change and stage time to explore that change. LeBlanc’s ability to subtly change their mannerisms as their character disposes of his ignorances cannot be understated. Hatfield also shines despite her relatively little stage time but is able to convey her character’s youth compared to the rest of the cast, and when a betrayal is discovered, she fumes in a quiet rage executed to complete success. However, I can’t move on from acknowledgement without recognizing Oelkers dual role as Jules and Pam’s son, donning a toddler’s attire and sitting cross-legged in a crib offering wise advice beyond his years. This utterly ridiculous motif serves as a hilarious — yet at times heartbreaking — juxtaposition to the flamboyant yet realistic drama unfolding with the adult characters.

The whole production takes place inside Jules and Pam’s apartment through a series of cocktail parties that they host over the course of several years. In that time, the three pairs go through a number of life changes that prompt exploration and discussion of issues relating to sexual and gender identity — often in an inelegant fashion. This is merely in reference to the characters however, as the script provided by Jordan Harrison expertly sets up its characters’ ignorances to explore the subject without ever once itself sharing in the flaws of the people inside it. Harrison has written over a dozen plays that have seen performances in regional theatres all over the country. This includes a 2015 Off-Broadway production of his play Marjorie Prime which featured actor Stephen Root; a piece that became a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for drama. Log Cabin, his most recent endeavor, shows that he has not lost his touch for realistic and exploratory dialogue that can tackle the issues of modern American life in terse fashion.

The dynamics presented gives the performance room to dissect the realities of living in a world that doesn’t, or chooses not to, understand the real people behind the block of labels that come from the Queer Community, and specifically that of trans people. Myna is a cisgender woman who, it is pointed out by Ezra, only dates transmen. “It’s not like a fetish or anything,” says Myna. Henry is a trans man who went to prom with Ezra back when they were in high school before he transitioned. Henry very plainly and clearly throughout the run of the production displays and discusses the plight of trans people in modern American society; intrusive questions, violent acts, and general prejudices. However, in exploring how the world is difficult for trans people, Log Cabin does not shy away from the fact that just because a particular person or group is marginalized, it doesn’t mean they don’t have their own prejudices.

This is most commonly seen through Ezra, a white, cisgendered, gay man who just so happens to find himself on the other side of privilege after same-sex relationships become more mainstream. This concept, though, is most interestingly seen through Henry. Henry constantly refers to cisgendered people throughout the play, and Chris, a homosexual black man, grows fed up with the term. At a certain point, Chris claims in a confrontation that in calling him a “cis man,” Henry lumps him in with every womanizing, bullying jock who tormented him in his former life back in Kansas.

Log Cabin additionally chooses to explore those around trans people who watch their loved one become the person they always were. Ezra, who knew Henry before he came out and started transitioning, frequently deadnames Henry and is ignorant of his plight in the world. Though, at one point in referring to Henry before he started transitioning, with sad eyes and a pout, Ezra says, “It’s like I’m the only one that misses her.”

Jules and Pam stand as the people against whom the chaos plays. Though they are often witnesses to the chaos, and even experience personal tragedy themselves, they are the ones who have the least internal dilemmas and show the most maturity. Log Cabin shows us that navigating the waters of these new kinds of relationships can be difficult. Watching friends become who they really are, and not who you quite remember, is a challenge as well, but it must be remembered that if a lifestyle causes no harm to anyone else, then there is no reason not to offer full acceptance to those who only wish to live their life truthfully.

Log Cabin is playing at the Robert B. Moss Theatre in Scott’s Addition, and is running through May 20th every Thursday – Saturday at 7:30, and Sunday at 4. It is a must-see for Richmond theatre lovers and a great demonstration of a changing world that should have been here the whole time.

Buy tickets to Log Cabin HERE
Give Richmond Triangle Players a follow at @richmond.triangle.players

Andrew Bonieskie

Andrew Bonieskie

I'm a writer and musician living in Brooklyn, NY after having served as the Associate Editor of RVA Mag from 2023 - 2024. After graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in music and a minor in creative writing I have gone on to score feature and short films, released a book of poetry, recorded multiple albums of original music with my band Pebbles Palace and as a solo artist under the name Lawrence Bones.




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