Hit the Wall would seem to be a show whose time has come, depicting a monumental milestone in the history of LGBTQ Rights. Precipitated by the death of Judy Garland, The Stonewall Riots marked a watershed, rallying point for various factions of the queer community (closet cases, twinks, drag queens, dykes, lipsticks, and so forth) who were tired of being rousted, abused and humiliated. Cosmopolitan as The Big Apple might be, The Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village was not immune to regular raids where customers were degraded, arrested, outed in the newspapers at a time when exposure ruined lives. Until that night when they decided they’d had enough. By some accounts the queens were first to take up the gauntlet, setting in motion a three-day melee that galvanized the Gay Rights Movement on an exponentially larger scale.
Written by Ike Holter, Hit the Wall takes a cross section of gay characters (male, female, trans, younger, older, out and passing) and tells their stories as witnesses to those notorious riots that took place in the sweltering June of 1969. Added to the mix are a couple of straight characters, a homophobic cop and estranged sister who may have softer sides. We assume Holter wants to go beneath the stereotypes to explore complications of identity. He takes great pains to emphasize that the truth is unknowable (as Rashomon taught us) except by processing anecdotal testimony. We get individual incidents in which a world that fosters paranoia and distrust gives way to solidarity and defiance.
The aggregate result of a society that systematically diminishes you cannot be exaggerated, and this phenomenal chain of events that led to groundbreaking anarchy is rich in history and inspiration. And so is Holter’s decision to capture it in theatrical event. Like Brokeback Mountain, it fills a need by giving us the nuts and bolts of same-gender sexuality without disparagement or condescension. The script is peppered with queer lingo. There may have been some struggle in deciding how to do the content justice, beyond a gloss that explains the how, why and cultural implications. Or choreographing a brawl in which queer folk (like us) kick some breeder ass. Hit the Wall may feel a bit unfocused, but it’s a scintillating, exhilarating show, filled with humanity, anger and enlightenment.
WaterTower Theatre presents Hit the Wall, playing July 28th-August 20th, 2017. 15650 Addison Road, Addison, Texas 75001. 972-450-6232. www.watertowertheatre.org,