(l to r) Patrick Foley and Michael Breslin in ‘Circle Jerk.’ (Photo courtesy of Fake Friends.)
Due to popular demand and critical acclaim, Fake Friends, a theater and media collective led by Michael Breslin and Patrick Foley, has announced a rebroadcast of Circle Jerk, a “Best of 2020” queer comedy about white gay supremacy. Breslin and Foley most recently produced and co-wrote the book for Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical, which has raised over $1 milliion for The Actors Fund.
Circle Jerk is a multi-camera, live-streamed performance broadcasting from MITU580 in Gowanus, Brooklyn that investigates digital life and its white supremacist discontents. A homopessimist hybrid of Ridiculous theater and internet culture, it tells the story of gay right-wing trolls and the algorithms they invent to spread their agenda. When truth is dead and fact is fiction, Circle Jerk is a realistic comedy about a farcical reality.
In Circle Jerk, it’s winter on Gaymen Island, a summer retreat for the homosexual rich and fame-ish. This off-season, two White Gay internet trolls hatch a plot to take back what’s wrongfully theirs. Cancelations, meme schemes, and political and erotical flip flops abound as three actors playing nine parts play out this chaotic live-streamed descent into the high-energy, low-brow, quick-change shitpit of the internet. Circle Jerk combines quick changes and live chat, theatricality and the post-COVID live-stream to take on the laptop-orchestrated shitshow that is online life and its political discontents. It takes a Ridiculous theatrical angle on our contemporary world of deep fakes, fake news, viral memes, and white gay supremacy.
In Circle Jerk, co-writers and performers Breslin and Foley, who are nevertheless still willing to identify as white, gay, and men, stage an (impossible?) experiment in indicting themselves and mainstream white gay supremacist culture in the US. Breslin and Foley, joined by Catherine María “Cat” Rodríguez , take inspiration from Charles Ludlam’s The Mystery of Irma Vep and sci-fi genre films like Ex Machina (both the Gothic children of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the German Expressionism of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis) to send up plotlines about the crisis of technology in relationship to humans and the concept of “reality.” Circle Jerk is co-directed by Rory Pelsue, includes dramaturgy by Ariel Sibert and is produced by Caroline Gart.
Circle Jerk examines how politics (made in the bedroom) can empower a historically oppressed group to become the oppressors. The title takes its name both from the homoerotic ritual in which men masturbate in a circle, getting off on watching each other get off, and the subreddit “/r/circlejerk,” a forum for the derisive critique of groupthink, popular among young men in the U.S. This “circle jerk” is an attempt not only to look at but to direct our collective gaze upon our inherited supremacies and the underbelly of our cult of culture.
Circle Jerk marks the first official production by the new theater and media company Fake Friends. The company is composed of Michael Breslin and Patrick Foley (creative directors), Ariel Sibert and Catherine María Rodríguez (core company members). Previous projects created by these collaborators, then under the name Michael+Patrick, have included This American Wife (NYTW Next Door) and A Doll’s House, Part 3 (Exponential Festival, ANT Fest). Breslin and Foley were members of Ars Nova’s Makers Lab 2019, and they are currently commissioned by Ars Nova and Seaview Productions to develop a new musical.
“Michael Breslin and Patrick Foley’s berserker comedy Circle Jerk is a coup,” wrote Helen Shaw in Vulture, adding, “I bet artists will be using it as a model, even after the pandemic.” Elisabeth Vincentelli in The New York Times called this “crazed, ambitious satire” “the most elaborate [show] I have yet seen in the virtual-theater era.” In Towleroad, Naveen Kumar declared, “Circle Jerk isn’t a substitute for in-person theatre or a case for humbly making the best of limitations. It’s a gauntlet and a dare to imagine the future.” Nicole Serratore in Exeunt NYC wrote, “Somehow the show manages to eat its technicolor wackadoodle cake while having a solid grounding in social critique too—the rare satirical success.”
On-demand streaming is available at circlejerk.live through January 17 on a sliding scale of $5-$50.