Hypnotically charming, exquisitely flamboyant and the very embodiment of wit, Ryan J. Haddad wrote and performs in Hi, Are You Single co-produced by the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, in association with IAMA Theatre.  Available for streaming through February 28th, Hi, Are You Single explores Haddad’s endless search for love—or even a one-night stand, while navigating self-doubt and what authentic communication really means—from chance encounters and gay bars to hook-up apps, Haddad’s frank sensuality is riveting.

Haddad also happens to have cerebral palsy and thus his examination of the gay dating scene is ground-breaking: in the play, Haddad references the first and only other time he saw someone with a disability represented by a disabled actor in a sex scene on the Netflix series Special.  (Historically, straight actors have played gay roles and abled performers have played disabled characters as part of their artistic journey of appropriation.)  Here, Haddad himself relates his own challenges and erotic victories—truthfully reflecting reality in all its pain and poignancy.

Beginning with a titillating and explicit grinder exchange in which Haddad negotiates which type of sexual encounters he and his hook up could engage in (he won’t do anal unless he’s dating), we follow him through rejection, one-night stands, and ultimately enlightenment.   The decision to film this play live onstage, with a socially distanced, masked audience was crucial to the experience—other formats, such as zoom and OBS, would have muted the impact.  Watching all of the highly sexual, magnetic Haddad murmur pick-up lines while maneuvering between his walker and a margarita is a powerfully complex and nuanced revelation.

Directors Laura Savia and Jess McLeod wisely filmed the play (following strict Covid guidelines) on a stage (this was the first time an actor had set foot on Wooly Mammoth’s Washington stage since March.) Lighting Designer Colin K. Bills transports us subtly and seamlessly between locations—from the pulsing lights in a club to a man isolated in his room. Tosin Olufolabi provides stirring sound and music to scenes. Costume and Scenic designer Lawrence E. Moten III has Haddad in a bright, casual yet colorful shirt and pink blazer with a sofa center—simple but perfect choices, keeping the stage mostly open to great effect.

At one point, Haddad invites an audience member up to dance with him (again following safety regulations) and the beauty of this simple moment is breath-taking.  At another moment in the show, Haddad interacts with the audience—for example, asking them how many orgasms they’ve had that day and what’s their favorite time of day to have sex.  This discussion of sexuality urgently establishes the unabashed and candid tone of the performance. A one-man tour-de-force, Haddad moves seamlessly from agonizingly painful moments of rejection or prejudice to enticing hilarity to fearless sensuality.

In keeping with Woolly Mammoth’s stated goal, “to develop, produce and make theatre that disrupts conventional processes and stimulates transformative experiences” and IAMA’s commitment to “invigorating live performance through cutting-edge, cool and hyper-modern stories” this production brings audiences—whether live or viewed online—into a shared experience.  The performance runs just under an hour and the stream includes options for captioning and audio description.  In addition to its pioneering, landmark representation of a gay actor with cerebral palsy performing as himself, Hi, Are You Single is an engaging, thought-provoking, moving triumph.

This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.

This post was written by Taurie Kinoshita.

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