The 50th Anniversary production of Mart Crowley's groundbreaking 1968 play The Boys in the Band also marks its Broadway premiere and plays a strictly limited 15-week engagement at the Booth Theatre.
The comic-drama originally premiered off-Broadway at the Playwrights' Unit in April 1968. After an initial intended run of just five performances, The Boys in the Band quickly gained a cult following, transferred to Theater Four on West 55th Street and ran for over 1,000 performances. Celebrity patrons during that period included the likes of Jackie Kennedy, Marlene Dietrich, Rudolf Nureyev, and Groucho Marx. The entire original off-Broadway cast also performed the play to great acclaim in London and were immortalised in William Friedkin's 1970 film adaptation.
Now, five openly gay producers have assembled an openly gay director and nine openly gay actors to mount a star-studded revival on the Great White Way and fifty years on, the piece shows us in equal measures just how far we have come and how, in other respects, nothing has changed at all. The play, of course, predates Stonewall and the AIDS epidemic and concentrates on the themes of self-loathing and homophobia. "Show me a happy homosexual, and I'll show you a gay corpse," suggests Michael, our host and the central character of the piece. Sadly in many parts of the country and of the world, this statement still rings heartwrenchingly true and fifty years later, despite tremendous political advancements and achievements, the sociological perspective remains partially as stagnant as ever.
Whilst some of Mr. Crowley's references may seem dated to younger audience members, there are many moments in The Boys in the Band that lead you to think it could have been written yesterday. The themes of racial identity still linger uncomfortably in the air in 2018, for example, whilst notions of monogamy and infidelity in the gay community are still widely topical. The play unapologetically depicts gay lifestyle and gay friendships, warts and all, and whilst the bitchiness and flamboyance of characters like Michael and Emory provide ample opportunities for laughs, the cast does an astonishing job of evoking the overwhelming sadness and loneliness at their core. What begins as formulaic as a sit-com eventually uses devices to expose the souls, torments and desires of our players to devastating effect.
David Zinn's slick scenic design of Michael's NYC apartment resembles a crimson glass house and should the inhabitants decide to start throwing stones, the whole fragile place would shatter and collapse around them... A fantastic metaphor for a striking and essential revival.
(Photos by Joan Marcus)
110 minutes, no intermission
April 30th, 2018
August 11th, 2018
By: Mart Crowley
Director: Joe Mantello
Producer: Ryan Murphy and David Stone
Cast list: Jim Parsons (as Michael), Zachary Quinto (as Harold), Matt Bomer (as Donald), Andrew Rannells (as Larry), Charlie Carver (as Cowboy), Robin de Jesús (as Emory), Brian Hutchison (as Alan), Michael Benjamin Washington (as Bernard), and Tuc Watkins (as Hank)
Design: David Zinn
Lighting: Hugh Vanstone
Costume: David Zinn
Sound: Leon Rothenberg
The Boys in the Band centers on a group of gay men who gather in a NYC apartment for a friend’s birthday party. After the drinks are poured and the music turned up, the evening slowly exposes the fault-lines beneath their friendships and the self-inflicted heartache that threatens their solidarity. A true theatrical game-changer, The Boys in the Band helped spark a revolution by putting gay men’s lives onstage -- unapologetically and without judgement – in a world that was not yet willing to fully accept them.
Unfortunately, tickets for this event are no longer available.
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