Sunday, March 04, 2007

"We Owe Barbra Streisand So Much"

"Some Men" at the Second Stage, March 4, 2007

Terrance McNally's newest play about gay men and where their lives lead them has premiered at the Second Stage Theatre Company.

A series of vignettes and scenes relating to nine men attending the wedding of two of their friends covers a veritable history of gay men from the 1920s to the present. Like his "Love, Valour, Compassion" Mr. McNally has compiled a cross-section of gay characters, from military man to married man to circuit boy to aging queen to gay activist to early drag queen and beyond. He shows all this, not so much to either justify or sabotage the concept of same sex marriage. I think he does a clever job without taking one side or the other.

The cast is solid, with each actor finding at least one moment to shine. Frederick Weller as Paul, attending the funeral of his fellow soldier and lover who was killed in Iraq makes a painfully constricted confession to the dead man's father, also military. Don Amendolia as Aaron, gets one of the funnier opening lines, "When did I become the oldest everywhere I go?" He also gives a funny turn in the internet chat sequence as "Buffed in Chelsea."

Bernie is the married man into whose life we see the most. To him, Kevin AuCoin brings a fresh vulnerability to every scene, from his first encounter with a hustler, to meeting Carl (Romain Fruge) who would become his life partner, to the argument he has with his gay son Perry (Jesse Hooker) who has hired a surrogate mother to bear a child for him and his lover Marcus (Michael McElroy).

As the Stonewall Riots rage outside, David Greenspan appears in a quiet gay bar as Roxie. Roxie isn't quite the typical drag queen, and is abused a bit by the clientele and bartender since cross-dressing was one thing that drew the police to raid gay bars at the time. Judy is a topic of
discussion in this scene - one of the patrons observes that Judy should have done the film version of "Gypsy" (a casting choice I've always thought would have been unbeatable). He wins his place in the bar with the statement, "When I look in the mirror, I see an ugly woman, but a fabulous drag queen. We owe Barbra Streisand so much!" End the scene, he sings a very tender "Over the Rainbow" as both tribute and confession.

Michael McElroy travels back in time to Harlem in the 20's as Angel Eyes, the emcee. He shares his story of the men who have loved and treated him well, nicely capturing the style and flair of the period. Pedro Pascal gets the "hottie" roles with turns as Bernie's hustler and internet RandyHunk. Randy Redd rounds out the cast, providing piano accompaniment and other supporting roles.

DirectorTrip Cullman moves the scenes along well and allows just enough time to ponder moments before moving on. Mark Wendland's set is particularly flexible with excellent lighting by Kevin Adams.

I'm glad to see Mr. McNally back with a solid theatre work. I thought his book for "Chita Rivera: A Dancer's Life" was a bit thin and glossy. Even less impressive was the scenario he created for the NYC Gay Men's Chorus a couple of years ago.

No comments: