Ira Glass wants stories about "something [the tellers] haven't quite worked out." Years ago, as a reporter, Glass learned, "If there's something irrational pulling you, even something unconscious, just follow it until that thing that's pulling you -- that desire -- is gone, and then it will all become clear."
Up Jumped Springtime. By various authors. Directed by Danny Scheie. Starring Colman Domingo, Brian Yates, and Da'Mon Vann. At Theater Rhinoceros, 2926 16th St. (at South Van Ness), through June 6. Call 861-5079.
Gay theater has created stereotypes of its own to wallow in, and finding a show that doesn't is rare. Up Jumped Springtime wallows, God knows, but it wallows with so much energy it mostly doesn't matter. The show is a series of skits drawn from stories by gay African-American writers, with a few interludes written by the players. The players are Da'Mon Vann, Brian Yates, and Colman Domingo (who portrayed Bayard Rustin in the intriguing and un-stereotypical Civil Sex last year). All three are polished, powerful artists; in fact if they were anything less the show would seem ordinary, because it includes a skit about the AIDS quilt, two skits about Schoolboys Realizing They're Gay, a skit or two with Drag Queens Putting on Attitude, and some Oprah-style chatter about identity. The whole thing is about Being Yourself, and the title comes from a Stan Getz song, which goes, "When up jumped springtime/ Love came on in."
One of the best segments, "A First Affair," shows a junior high school kid named William going over to Stacy's house for a party. Stacy is a boy with a yardwide 'fro who was kept back in school and beats up kids on the playground. ("Tell her next time, I'll cut her fucking balls off," he screeches at some bully.) Stacy fascinates, frightens, and eventually comes on to William, inviting him to a party that William goes to in spite of his God-fearing, mixing-spoon-wielding mother. The party introduces him to his first glimmerings of gay love, and it ends not so differently from the other highlight, "Jay's Story," about a young man coming out to his brother. The brother promises to keep Jay's sex life a secret but then kind-of-but-not-really tells their sister, who gossips the news until Jay's parents find out. Both skits are uproarious because of Brian Yates' wild, high-pitched performances as Stacy and the sister, respectively. He plays up the cliches until the material burns.
Also excellent is "Aunt Ida Pieces a Quilt," which has Colman Domingo fitting his huge, cut-figured self into the character of a bent old woman with glasses. Aunt Ida talks to an invisible guest as she sews a quilt for her nephew. The skit is subtle enough to keep us from thinking that her nephew died of AIDS until she mentions that she's sending her handiwork to a big exhibit in Washington, D.C. The payoff seems negligible after the entertaining job Domingo does with Ida; it winds up feeling like a commercial for the AIDS quilt. The show as a whole is like that: a few tendentious touches flaw what would otherwise be an evening of liberating, bitchy entertainment.