Back in the Closet kind of makes me regret any previous use of the word ‘bizarre’ because this show is wholly bizarre. A weird, wonderful gay odyssey that’s totally unafraid to be uncomfortable and distasteful. Fraden is a very spaced out comedian, like someone constantly on the verge of an epiphany. That’s very appropriate on account of how otherworldly this show is. There’s dancing, music, psychedelic lights and maybe The Voice of the Universe(?) There’s contemplation, profundity, and uh, penises.
Fraden is an endearing stage presence, a sincere performer who reveals a conflicted soul with disarming candour. Growing up gay when Fraden did could make anybody feel like an outcast, but he’s remarkably honest in revealing that he even feels like an outcast in the gay community. The result is a singular character, at odds with the universe but finding the fun in that. The material is focussed on that feeling, on navigating a world that feels alien. It’s a glimpse of a perspective from which mundane facts of life are revealed as silly, dysfunctional things. Fraden’s show is deliberately awkward, almost flagrantly distasteful but very, very funny.
Despite leveraging discomfort and silence into laughs, I do think this approach can leave the show feeling a bit ponderous, but then there is a lot of pondering throughout so who’s to say that that’s a bug rather than a feature. In the end I’d recommend it with enthusiasm. It’s completely weird, frequently hilarious, but most of all, it’s a unique contemplation on life as a gay man in the modern world. Where a lot of other LGBT comedians are very socially conscious, turning their talents to clowning on bigotry and stupidity, Fraden’s is a wholly inward perspective. It leaves the show feeling meditative, introspective, thoughtful. How someone manages to make that extremely funny into the bargain is beyond my ability to describe. There’s funnier shows out there to be sure, but nothing that’s funny quite like this. See it.