The Boys in the Band (play)
|The Boys in the Band|
Poster for the 1996 off-Broadway revival
|Written by||Mart Crowley|
|Date premiered||April 14, 1968|
|Place premiered||Theatre Four
New York City, New York
The Boys in the Band is a play by Mart Crowley. The off-Broadway production, directed by Robert Moore, opened on April 14, 1968 at Theater Four, where it ran for more than 1,000 performances. The cast included Kenneth Nelson as Michael, Peter White as Alan, Leonard Frey as Harold, Cliff Gorman as Emory, Frederick Combs as Donald, Laurence Luckinbill as Hank, Keith Prentice as Larry, Robert La Tourneaux as Cowboy, and Reuben Greene as Bernard.
- Harold celebrates his birthday party, thrown by six of his closest friends. He becomes increasingly morose about losing his youthful looks and claims that he no longer can attract cute young men.
- "Cowboy", an attractive blond male prostitute who is "not too bright", is one of Harold's presents.
- Alan is an unexpected party guest, Michael's allegedly straight college friend, who is in town and anxious to tell Michael something—but hesitant to do so when he sees the group.
His six closest friends are:
- Michael is Harold's "friend-enemy", the host, and a lapsed Roman Catholic alcoholic undergoing psychoanalysis
- Donald is a conflicted friend, who has moved from the city to spurn the homosexual "lifestyle".
- Bernard is an African-American, who still pines for the wealthy white boy in the house where his mother worked as a maid.
- Emory is flamboyant and "effeminate".
- Larry, a fashion photographer who prefers multiple sex partners, and
- Hank, Larry's live-in boyfriend who was previously married to a woman, and "passes" as straight. He disagrees with Larry on the issue of monogamy.
During the party, one humor takes a nasty turn, as the nine men become increasingly inebriated. The party culminates in a game, where each man must call someone and tell him he loves him. Michael, believing that Alan has finally "outed" himself when he makes his call, realizes that Alan's wife is the caller when he grabs the phone away from Alan. The audience never learns what Alan intended to discuss with Michael in the end.
According to Crowley's friend Gavin Lambert, actress Natalie Wood, who sympathized with Hollywood's gay scene, financially supported Crowley, who is himself gay, so he would be free to write his play. The playwright, who first met her while working as a production assistant on the movie Splendor in the Grass, worked as an assistant for Wood and her husband Robert Wagner for many years.
Mart Crowley, the creator of this play, reminded himself of Michael as "a complex person who is aware of what is politically correct but has a sort of contempt for it", and he called Donald "a foil for Michael" and an inspiration of Crowley's friend. In the 1995 documentary, The Celluloid Closet, Crowley explained, "The self-deprecating humor was born out of a low self-esteem, from a sense of what the times told you about yourself."
The play has run more than 1,000 performances. It had a brief revival at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in Greenwich Village in 1996, and, in 2002, the sequel The Men from the Boys premiered in San Francisco and was produced in Los Angeles the following year.
Reception and impact
When The Boys in the Band premiered in 1968, mainstream audiences were shocked.
In the same year, a two-disc vinyl LP set was released, containing the full dialogue of the play voiced by the original actors. In 1970, it was adapted for a motion picture directed by William Friedkin. Matt Crowley wrote the sequel to The Boys in the Band, The Men From The Boys.
In 2000, a female student from Starkville High School in Mississippi called the play "unsuitable" for children under 18 for slang use, but praised the play's treatment of homosexuality and self-hatred and commended the play's writer Crowley for being "honest and uncompromising". In 2001, a woman from San Diego rebutted the student's review by attesting the play as a life-saver for gay teens and called Alan, a character from the play, a self-denying homosexual and a poster boy for people like him. In 2005, another female student remarked that the play influenced her to prevent herself from committing suicide.
After gays saw The Boys in the Band, they no longer would settle for thinking of themselves as pathetic and wouldn't be perceived as such any longer. Now that [characters] had brought their feelings out of the closet, this new generation would dare to be different. And, just as some whites' view of blacks changed after seeing A Raisin in the Sun, so too did the outlook of many straights after they caught The Boys in the Band. Some whom I personally know felt terrible and -- I saw this happen! -- actually changed the way they treated gays.
In 2004, David Anthony Fox from Philadelphia City Paper praised this play, its one-liners, and its live performance in Philadelphia. He rebutted criticism that the play portrayed "urban gay men as narcissistic, bitter, shallow". In 2010, Elyse Summer from CurtainUp website called it a "smart gimmick" full of dated "self-homophobic, low self-esteem characters". In the same year, Steve Weinstein from the Edge website called it "Shakespearean".
- Ben Brantley (2010-02-24). "Broken Hearts, Bleeding Psyches". The New York Times.
- "Lortel Archives listing". Retrieved 2007-03-27.
- Roca, Octavio (2002-10-26). "'Boys' to 'Men': Mart Crowley's latest play takes 'Boys in the Band' through the past 30 years". TheSan Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-03-27.
- Sommer, Elyse. "The Boys in the Band review." CurtainUp.com 19 February 2010. Web. 25 May 2012.
- Fox, David Anthony. "The Boys in the Band review." Philadelphia City Paper June 17, 2012. Web. 25 May 2012.
- Roca 2002, p. 2.
- Kinser, Jeffrey. "Mart Crowley on His Friend Natalie Wood." Advocate 23 November 2011. Web. 25 May 2012.
- Jaques, Damien (May 31, 1998). "'Boys in Band' returns to stage, tamer now but still honest, witty". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Document ID: 0EB82BA95CE4B17C. (subscription required)
- Higleyman, Liz. "What was The Boys in the Band?" GMax.co.za 6 February 2004. Web. 25 May 2012 .
- Warfield, Polly. "The Men from the Boys review." Backstage: The Actor's Resource 31 July 2003. Web. 25 May 2012.
- "Mississippi Writers: Matt Crowley." Mississippi Writers and Musicians, 2000. Web. 25 May 2012 .
- Filichia, Peter. "Bring on the Men!" Theater Mania 18 October 2002. Web. 25 May 2012 .
- Weinstein, Steve. "Mart Crowley: The Man Behind the ’Boys’." Edge New York 12 February 2010. Web. 25 May 2012 .
- Lambert, Gavin (2005). Natalie Wood: A Life (First edition ed.). Backstage Books. ISBN 0-8230-8829-4.