Consider yourself one of the lucky few who can get a ticket to the Transport Group’s revival of Mart Crowley’s “The Boys in the Band” – now extended through March 28th.
In this inspired and ingenious production, director Jack Cummings III has set the play in a Penthouse loft space at 37 West 26th Street which seats approximately 99 in the round – right in the middle of Harold’s gay birthday party bitch fest. You are barely a breath away from the actors.
As your head swivels to catch each and every classic zinger you may feel that you are in the midst of a 1960’s happening, watching a time capsule reincarnation of gay life way back when with references to Judy Garland, Bette Davis, sandalwood soap, gay bars and the baths. When coming out was solely the act of a debutante. However more open we have become regarding gays some of the same problems still exist – loneliness, guilt, self loathing and the importance of physical beauty.
All of the stereotypes are finely etched: The flamboyant Queen Emory (John Wellmann), The guilt ridden and bitter host Michael (Jonathan Hammond) the unexpected guest ex-roommate of Michael in-the-closet Alan (Kevin Isola) Bernard the Queen of Spades (Kevyn Morrow) the couple on-the-rocks, teacher Hank (Graham Rowat) in the middle of a divorce from his wife and dealing with the promiscuity of Larry (Christopher Innvar) his present lover. Donald (Nick Westrate) Michael’s weekend trick, the Midnight Cowboy hustler (Aaron Sharff) who is a birthday gift for the very high and regal Harold (Jon Levenson) whose Greek Chorus comments are sublime. All in all a wonderful ensemble that can deliver the now famous one-liners, one nastier than the next, as the evening progresses over cocktails of the Molotov variety and lasagna.
I had seen the original production and remember the incredible cast but this is a whole different experience. Watching the play and the audience. We dressed differently then and were a bit more formal and more careful of our actions – although just being there sort of gave us away. I was intrigued by one young couple, probably just turned twenty something who sat there with their arms entwined, kissing and cooing like two turtle doves as they giggled over the somewhat contrived but altogether enthralling shenanigans on stage.
To paraphrase one of the characters, we have to have respect for each others freedom. In Mart Crowley’s ground breaking play he has helped gay people and the world around us to do just that with a wicked sense of humor.
www.transportgroup.org Photo: Carol Rosegg