The Creators and Stars of ‘Circle Jerk’ Just Want to Put On a Show
In 2020, Michael Breslin and Patrick Foley—the creative directors of Fake Friends, a theater company based in Brooklyn—digitally premiered Circle Jerk, a brilliant, piercing critique of Internet-era white gayness starring (and somewhat autofictionally about) themselves. It briefly became an online sensation, thanks in part to producer Jeremy O. Harris’s ardent campaigning, and was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2021; now, they’ve brought it back and into the IRL, live (and live-streamed nightly) from the Connelly Theater in New York. At least temporarily, this will close the loop before they move onto new projects.
Following rehearsal on a recent Sunday afternoon, the two are headed to the East Williamsburg nightclub 3 Dollar Bill for another exercise in communal self-indulgence: local celebrity DJ Ty Sunderland’s weekly “Ty Tea” day party, where a certain kind of revelrous gay congregates throughout the summer.
One post-work drink turns into four double tequila sodas, and the pair are admiring the skin-forward, early summer couture, ranging from a young redhead in a tank top reading “SLAY & YAAAS & TWINK,” to more intricate, high-heeled getups. “I love these theatrical little babies wearing full-out looks, but it’s sad to me that it probably only happens for, like, four hours on a Sunday,” Breslin remarks. “It’s like repression in daily life at the capitalism office, and then they put on their theater costumes for their day out.”
A few hours in, with Kylie Minogue blasting and shirts off, the self-congratulatory, debauched dealings around them create a perfect petri dish for the ideas of gay sociology Circle Jerk explores. With its two writer-stars playing six different characters competing for social survival, the piece creates a rigorous dialectic between inner and outer appearances. At a breakneck pace, the three-act play follows innocent Brooklynite Patrick’s visit to “Gaymen Island”—a mix of the Fire Island Pines and every other gay party mecca—where his sexy Internet boyfriend, secretly an alt-right troll, is mounting a massive disinformation campaign with a tech-savvy meme lord. When Patrick’s best friend Michael arrives to de-dickmatize him, white gays do as white gays will, and every conceivable sexual boundary is crossed.
“There’s a dual vision at work when you’re in gay-coded spaces of, ‘Are you fuckable and are you actually interesting?’ and, for most gays, fuckable is way more interesting than being interesting,” Foley says, dancing along to Britney Spears. “But not for me, because I’m an intellectual.”
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