BY JACKSON CLINE
I can’t remember the last time I saw a same-sex couple portrayed onstage in a casual way. In almost every musical with gay characters, there seems to be a major plot point relating to coming out, fighting for gay rights, illness or other struggles. These stories are extremely important to tell, but it’s just as important for audiences to see gay characters experiencing normal, everyday life. If sexual orientation is not a plot point, then the gay characters are often jokes.
Before this week, I had never seen gay characters populate an onstage world with such normalcy. Quite honestly, Escape to Margaritaville was the last show I expected to see this in.
In Escape to Margaritaville, Justin Mortelliti and Julius Anthony Rubio play a gay couple on vacation at the Margaritaville Hotel. We see them dance together, drink, meditate, play card games, and even escape natural disasters. But never do they become stereotypes. Never are they the punchline of a joke. They’re simply people populating a world.
Justin and Julius’ characters never step into the spotlight to speak or sing solos. They never draw attention to themselves. The audience does not even know their names. But they’re quietly making a difference.
As a 22-year-old gay man, I found myself moved by this production’s decision to tell this story. I’ve seen and been a part of a lot of theatre, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a gay couple portrayed quite like this.
Many audience members probably won’t even notice these characters, but I can only imagine how powerful watching Justin and Julius ooze confidence, joy, and pride is for LGBT youth struggling to embrace themselves.
Thank you, Escape to Margaritaville, for being giving me the opportunity to see myself onstage. Not as a joke, not just as someone struggling to be himself, but as a confident, joyful human being who contains multitudes.