Avoidance Tactics: Three Plays


112 pages
ISBN 1-896647-50-2
DDC C812'.54






Reviewed by Ian C. Nelson

Ian C. Nelson is librarian emeritus and former Assistant Director of
Libraries (Collection Management & Budget) University of Saskatchewan
Library and Dramaturge for the Festival de la Dramaturgie des Prairies.


Gilbert, described in David Bateman’s introduction as the “Betty
Windsor of Canadian queer drama,” wrote and directed the three plays
included in this anthology in 1998 and 1999. The most successful and
accessible of the three works, a hilarious comedy entitled The Birth of
Caspar G. Schmidt, was remounted at the Edmonton Comedy Festival and the
High Performance Rodeo in Calgary in 2000.

Schubert Lied (A Schubertirade) raises the question of Schubert’s
sexuality and death with at least a nod to the same type of
nonhistorical re-creation and scatological indulgence that mainstream
theatre encountered in Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus. Its most challenging
scene is one of orchestrated wordplay that, in the playing, is pure
Dada. Elsewhere word games form a convenient cover for the repressed
characters who are presented in several encounters. The play takes a
curious turn at the end with a message which literally calls out that
censorship is suicide.

Independence is a graphic illustration of Gilbert’s view of
playwright William Inge’s wish-fulfilment dramas. He has the Inge
character stepping into famous roles in pivotal scenes from Picnic, Bus
Stop, and Splendor in the Grass (it’s curious that editing did not
catch the misspelling of the actresses’ names in the text). Passages
of direct address to the audience state the rather obvious key to what
is being offered in terms of Inge’s deeply hidden and sublimated

By far the most accessible piece is The Birth of Caspar G. Schmidt.
Gilbert begins this extended satirical comedy sketch by illustrating the
friendship of a homosexual man and a heterosexual couple as a
re-creation of either a Noel Coward comedy or a Woody Allen fiasco. He
raises the stakes considerably in both comedy and seriousness as he
moves the trio into a follow-up situation, raising the spectres of
seduction, homophobia, and the fear of AIDS. This play alone is worth
the price of the anthology.


Gilbert, Sky., “Avoidance Tactics: Three Plays,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 17, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/7557.