Gay Play Round-up

Daddycatcher is sure that most of you have read the gay theater piece that ran in The New York Times about a month ago.  If not, then read it now…and check out some of the plays that are currently running in New York.

THE BOYS IN THE BAND (Transport Group)
After it premiered in 1968, The Boys in the Band was very quickly considered out of date. This was due to some of the stereotypical portrayal and inherent self-loathing in its characters, who gather together in a New York apartment to celebrate the birthday of one of their own.  The play also premiered before the Stonewall Riots changed the face of the gay movement in America.  However, after seeing this site-specific production in a Manhattan loft setting, the worries of it being a relic should be discarded.  It provides a look at a slice of gay life that did exist.  Jonathan Hammond gives a heart-wrenching performance as Michael, host of the party, who spins uncontrollably into a pit of drunken self-loathing.  The dialogue is quick, bitter, bitchy, and witty.  You feel like a fly on the wall as the seats are placed around the set with the backdrop of Manhattan skyscrapers surrounding you.

YANK! (York Theatre)
Gays in the military: check!  Keeping it a secret (“don’t ask, don’t tell” much): check! A tap dance routine on how to hook up in the 1940’s: um, check!  This musical tells the untold love story of two Army soldiers during World War II.  One of them is an idealistic dreamer who ends up becoming a photographer for “Yank!” Magazine, played by a cute but overwrought Bobby Steggert.  The other is a straight(!)-laced, handsome alpha male, played by Ivan Hernandez.  The musical was written in the style of the great 1940’s Rodgers & Hammerstein book musicals.  Daddycatcher was a little disappointed.  He liked the show but felt that the style and tone of it kept the audience at a distance.  The ensemble is terrific including the men who make up the rest of Steggert and Hernandez’s platoon.  However, a straight (once again with the puns!) forward rendering of the story would have been more compelling.

THE TEMPERAMENTALS (New World Stages)
Daddycatcher first encountered this play when it was playing in a corner theatre at the Barrow Group last summer.  It has since moved to a open-ended run off-Broadway at New World Stages starring Thomas Jay Ryan and Michael Urie (Marc from Ugly Betty).  Based on the formation of the Mattachine Society, the play comes off like a history lesson.  Part of the problem is that the play gets lost in a larger and more conventional (proscenium) space.  The off-off-Broadway production played to a smaller (sold-out) audience in a black box and the sense of danger about living an openly homosexual life was more palpable.  The performances were, and still, are uniformly excellent but were more affecting when you felt like you were in the dark alleyways with them.

THE PRIDE (MCC Theater)
The Pride has turned out to be Daddycatcher’s new favorite gay play.  Alexi Kaye Campbell’s Olivier-Award winning play makes it New York premiere at MCC Theater starring four of Britain’s most acclaimed actors: Hugh Dancy, Ben Whishaw, Andrea Riseborough, and Adam James.  The play alternates between 1958 and 2008 and examines two complex love triangles.  1958 – Philip and Sylvia are a “happily” married couple until Sylvia introduces her literary colleague, Oliver, to Philip…2008 – Oliver is trying to reconcile with Philip, who has left him because of his infidelities. Oliver looks to Sylvia for support and guidance on how to win Philip back.

The power of the play comes from the contrasting eras.  Philip and Oliver carry out a secret affair in 1958, while their 2008 counterparts are living openly with their homosexuality. Ben Whishaw provides the most well-rounded performance as Oliver, who is enlivened by his newfound love in ’58 while his ’08 Oliver can’t seem to figure out why he can’t remain monogamous to his boyfriend.  Daddycatcher’s new British boyfriend, Hugh Dancy, gives a solid performance as Philip – his ’58 Philip gets more stage time than his contemporary Philip but that’s because the ’58 Philip is much more interesting.  Dancy finds that denial that kept men of the era shut in their closets.  His Philip gives in to an urge and deeply regrets it.  The sad part is that is truly the only time he has ever been happy.  But his societal obligations don’t allow him that happiness.  Andrea Riseborough as Sylvia provides great support as a highly suspicious wife and as the ultimate straight girl best friend.  Adam James pops up as three different characters, memorable as an editor whose uncle had died of AIDS.

NEXT FALL (Helen Hayes Theatre)
Daddycatcher also caught this play in an earlier production, but unlike The Temperamentals, Next Fall feels right at home in its larger space on Broadway.  Luke has been in an accident and is in a coma. The accident throws the lives of his friends and family into a whirlwind.  Most affected are his parents and his partner, Adam.  Especially since Luke is a devout Christian who has never come out to his parents while Adam is a confirmed Atheist.  Playwright-actor Geoffrey Nauffts takes the audience through Adam and Luke’s relationship (told in flashback) to see how their belief in faith affects them.  The play doesn’t hit you over the head with one viewpoint or another.  Instead it focuses on the human struggle that occurs when faced with a devastating situation.  The show has a great ensemble cast that includes Patrick Breen, Patrick Heusinger (Lord Marcus from Gossip Girl), Maddie Corman, Sean Dugan, Connie Ray (anyone else remember her from The Torkelsons!?!), and Cotter Smith.

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