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Social satire carries message of tolerance

Camp has never been so … well, campy.

“Gay Camp,” a stage play written by Philip Mutz and Susan-Kate Heaney that lands at Interplayers on Saturday night, is a satire of social mores, political correctness, hypocrisy and cultural stereotypes. Although it’s filled with dirty jokes and bad behavior, it preaches a message of open-mindedness and compassion.

“It’s kind of like a dirty ‘Saturday Night Live,’ ” Ken Urso, an actor in the production, explained. Urso and two other actors, Philip Anthony and Christian Field, play all of the parts, quickly changing in and out of costumes and wigs to portray the campers and counselors of the play’s main setting, the ironically named Camp Acceptance.

But this isn’t your typical camp: It’s actually a program designed for concerned conservative parents to send their gay children in hopes that they’ll be “cured” of their homosexuality.

Some of the show’s memorable characters include June, a closeted lesbian who’s also the head of the camp – “She’s trying to cover up her own sexuality by proclaiming that everyone should change who they are,” Urso said – and a camper named Anton, who rebels against the system and decides to spearhead a revolution against the uptight, closed-minded counselors.

It all culminates with Michele Bachman Day, where the Republican congresswoman is scheduled to appear and congratulate the campers on their supposed sexual reformation.

Bachmann, however, never gets the chance to make her appearance. “By the end, the kids have completely taken over the camp,” Urso said. “They realize they need to accept themselves and each other and be happy with who they are.”

“Gay Camp,” directed by Phillip Fazio, premiered in New York City last year, where it won a best ensemble award at the New York Fringe Festival. Saturday marks the first time the show has been performed outside of the Big Apple, but Urso, who has worked with Interplayers before, believes its appeal is universal.

“We are targeting the gay community of Spokane,” Urso said, “and I think they’re ready for it.”

The show might be irreverent – it’s heavy on innuendo and crude humor and is recommended for adult audiences – but at the core of “Gay Camp” is a message of tolerance.

“It celebrates diversity,” Urso said, “and if we’re happy and having a good time, our community will get stronger. We can all gain from that.”