The name "Ten Percent Revue" -- it refers to both program and performers -- alludes to the famous Kinsey Report assertion that approximately 10 percent of the American population is homosexual. A "gay" cabaret in both the pre- and postliberation senses of the word, it is a (mostly) upbeat celebration of this so-called "alternative life style," tweaking its stereotypes while acknowledging its serious concerns.
Source Theatre has imported this Boston troupe in time to cheer-lead for the Oct. 11 Gay and Lesbian March on Washington, and though it's designed primarily for out-of-the-closet insiders, this brisk show has something to say to people beyond its 10 percent target audience.
The evening begins with "Flaunting It," as four performers in uniforms of polo shirts, jeans and Reeboks sing of their everyday defiances. "If I Were/ I'd Like to Be" is a vignette in which a gay man and woman each fantasize about being in the other's Reeboks -- and the catalogue of gay cliche's is hilarious. In "Home," Jenifer Firestone muses on a bittersweet return to her parents' house, where her thoughts must be kept to herself, and wonders what "home" really is.
In "Not Allowed," a male couple addresses the unpleasant realization that "coming out" isn't all it's meant to be. With a combination of wistfulness and anger, they sing of the unspoken prohibitions against expressing their affection publicly.
"Personals," sung by the company, each member of which is scanning the ads in a different gay newspaper, satirizes the ways lonely people today simultaneously reach out and keep each other at arm's length. "Gay Name Game" ends the first act with a wickedly funny roll call of famous gay people -- the list includes historical and contemporary personages as well as a few amusing speculations.
The mood darkens in Act 2, and several of its comic songs could be trimmed from the otherwise lean revue. The Devo-esque "Safe Sex Slut" is priceless, however: "He's a safe sex slut/ He's a latex nut/ Oooh, he's so alluring/ He used to shower after sex/ But now he showers during."
Though the show has a healthy sense of humor about its subject, it's not oblivious to the suffering and fear caused by AIDS. Several numbers deal pointedly with the issue, and after Michael Cheffo poignantly sings the story of a real life behind an "Obituary," the show nearly doesn't recover from the emotional wallop.
The clever and musically inventive songs were written by Tom Wilson Weinberg, who plays piano and with his chipper countenance puts one in mind of a gay Mr. Rogers. The four singers are personable if a bit unpolished, though they hit the right balance between intimacy and exuberance. Director Scott Green could teach D.C.'s cabaret aspirants a thing or two.
Ten Percent Revue, words and music by Tom Wilson Weinberg. Directed by Scott Green; setting, Edwin Perez-Carrion; lighting, Laura Green and Michael Matthews. With Wendy Binkowitz, Michael Cheffo, Jenifer Firestone, James Humphrey, Tom Wilson Weinberg. At Source Theatre Warehouse Rep through Oct. 17.