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Some Men

a Drama w/ Comedy & Music
CATEGORY :
by Terrence McNally

COMPANY : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
ID# 2791

SHOWING : May 04, 2008 - May 31, 2008

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Kent Gash
Costume Design English Benning
Technical Director Nathan Green
Sound Design Joseph P. Monaghan III
Prop Design Emily Pape
Lighting Design Mike Post
Assistant Director Cheryl Rookwood
Music Director Robert Strickland
Set Design Korey Washington
Cast Tim Batten
Cast John Benzinger
Cast Will Cobbs
Cast Steven Emanuelson
Cast Don Finney
Cast Louis Gregory
Cast Doyle Reynolds
Cast Tom Thon
Cast Jacob Wood
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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Moments of Fabulous
by Dedalus
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
4.0
Nine Actors. Forty-Four Characters. Eighty Years. By my calculations, that adds up to one evening of “Fabulous.”

Terrence McNally’s “Some Men,” now getting its Atlanta premiere at Actor’s Express, is a tapestry of Gay Life in America over the past eighty years. At first, seemingly disconnected vignettes show us different characters in different years – a wedding in 2008, a Disco in 1975, a secluded beach in 1927, a Harlem nightclub in the 1930’s, a “Show Queen” bar across the street from the Stonewall riots, a pre-AIDS bathhouse, a post-AIDS clinic. Some moments are somber, some cold, some hot, some sad, some funny, some outrageous, some mysterious.

If it had been left as this, “Some Men” would have been an interesting cultural artifact, a “way in” for the non-gay community to learn about the diverse and rich history of the 20th-century gay journey. And it would have made an enjoyable play-going moment, easily digested, quickly forgotten.

But along the way, we begin to notice the same characters popping up in different stories from different years. Along the way, we begin to see the tenuous threads that connect all forty-four characters to each other. Soon, we’re being swept away by a seemingly epic story of not just “gay culture,” but of specific characters, characters we see at different moments of their lives, characters trying to hold onto small moments of happiness that are buffeted by the winds of culture, of public perception, of growing, learning, and living.

And this makes all the difference in the world. This is what raises this piece from the respectable zone of “statement” play about specific types to that rare and resonant zone of reflection of universal human experience.

The one scene that ties this together for me is a Washington Park interview scene in which two young and “politically active” filmmakers are making a “gender studies” video by talking to two “old queers.” The youngsters are lamenting what the older generation had to go through, savoring the freedoms of 21-st Century New York. The older pair lament what has been lost, the strange and peculiar moments of happiness stolen from under the noses of society’s watchdogs, the fact that the hangout of their youth is “now a Starbucks.” This scene, more than any I’ve seen in some time, perfectly captures that ambivalence and optimism that, to my mind, exemplifies the best of human nature, the tendency to remember the “moments of happiness” much more than the dark spots in between.

And, the fact that Mr. McNally paints an optimistic and triumphant portrait of a demographic that has suffered cruelty, ostracism, violence, and ignorance is a testament to his own resilience.

Fair warning – this play contains a boatload of full-frontal male nudity, lots of boy-on-boy, man-on-man, and man-on-boy smooching, and a scene of simulated moonlight romping. It also contains many more moments of extreme tenderness, two heart-breaking scenes of sadness and loss and illness, and a full-length a capella rendition of “Over the Rainbow” that’ll knock the sequins right out of you.

There may be admittedly a few too many scenes (I could have down without the too-long “group therapy” session), some of the mood swings are abrupt enough to give you vertigo, and little attention is paid to “aging” the characters. By my calculations, Doyle Reynolds’ Bernie should be in his mid-seventies by the 2008 wedding scene, but still looks the same youthful thirty-something he was in the 1968 Waldorf Astoria scene. But you know what? Keeping track of the changing ages of the recurring characters would have been a logistical nightmare, and maintaining them at a single level gives them a universal “we never see ourselves as old” quality.

The cast (Tim Batten, John Benzinger, Will Cobbs, Steven Emanuelson, Don Finney, Louis Gregory, Doyle Reynolds, Tom Thon, and Jacob Wood) shift from character to character with panache and joy, they all have moments of song that sparkle (especially Mr. Finney’s in-drag “Over the Rainbow”), and set pieces fly into place and disappear as if by magic.

In other words, this is a solid, memorable work that is a crown to Mr. McNally’s career, a feather in the cap of director Kent Gash for keeping such a sprawling and time-out-of-joint story flowing smoothly, and a worthy successor to long line of “Gay Themed” plays found at Actor’s Express.

It gave this not-particularly-gay audience member many absolutely fabulous moments to remember.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)


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