Wednesday, 19 February 2014

UNSEAMLY: JONATHAN SILVER PORTRAYS SLEAZY FASHION TITAN



Montreal actor Jonathan Silver portrays Ira Slatsky in Oren Safdie’s new play Unseamly (All photos by Jeremy Bobrow, courtesy www.jtsilver.com)


“You’re like this beautiful sexy chick that has every guy in your class whacking off to you! ” says the fictional character Ira Slatsky in Oren Safdie’s new play Unseamly, currently playing at Le Bain St. Michel in Montreal.

You are forgiven if Slatsky reminds you of Safdie’s cousin, Dov Charney, the notorious CEO of American Apparel who has been the target of several lawsuits involving employees, most of which have been quietly settled or dismissed. In Unseamly, Slatsky heads a clothing company known for its risqué billboards, and is charged by a former employee of sexual harassment.

Silver portrays Slatsky
Safdie is one of Montréal’s best known playwrights across North America, son of famed architect Moshe Safdie, and he divides his time between his residences in Los Angeles and Westmount where he recently told the Westmount Examiner, “There really is a sense of coming home. Despite having all my plays done in New York, it was somewhat of an obsession to be produced here. In fact, in the early days of my career, I used to bring the actors from my shows up to Montreal and put up the plays in back basement bars – places like Le Bijou in Old Montreal or DeSalvio's Club on St. Laurent Boulevard - just to get the theatre community to see my work.”

I have long thought the way women are portrayed in fashion is the same way men are objectified in gay culture, which embraces sex and also puts a premium on youthful beauty. 

As American rock star Beth Ditto notoriously complained to London’s NME magazine back in 2007, “If there’s anyone to blame for size zero, it’s not women. Blame gay men who work in the fashion industry and want these women as dolls. Men don’t know what it feels like to be a woman and be expected to look a particular way.”

Except gay men do.

“Fashion is one of the few professions where gay men and women hold the reins of power,” Ditto told me. “It’s a shame we can’t be more empowering.”

For openly-gay actor Jonathan Silver – who lives, acts and teaches acting in Montreal – playing the role of Ira Slatsky has been enlightening.

“I think the biggest trap with this kind of character is to get drawn into our preconceived notions of what a sexual predator looks like and sounds like,” says Silver. “I think that playing him as overtly threatening or clearly predatory actually does a disservice to his victims, as it paints them as unintelligent or easily taken in. The truth is that this kind of sexual predator is able to get away with his actions because he is actually more charming, more innately likeable than average. This charm, when combined with power is a truly dangerous proposition. This to me is what makes the character so terrifying.”

Silver adds, “As a gay man, this supposedly uber-straight character actually isn’t that far of a stretch. He is a sexual being through and through whose energy can definitely be described as pushing the boundaries of hetero-normativity.  I would even say there are hints of pansexuality to him. The world is a canvas for his sexual energy which he expresses through his clothing, his photographs and his company’s values. He certainly fixates on women in this play, but in a very different way than what you might consider an ‘average’ heterosexual response. Women are his clay, his playthings, his mannequins. He is in many ways attracted to women as an idea more so than women themselves.”



Infinithéâtre presents Unseamly at Montreal's Bain St. Michel (5300, Rue St-Dominique, corner Maguire) until March 9. Tuesday to Saturday at 8:00 pm, Sunday matinee at 2:00pm. Click here for more info and tickets. Tickets: Regular: $25, Students/Seniors: $20. Ticket sales at the door are CASH ONLY.



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