A play that was originally produced off Broadway in 1968 has returned to the West End again, it’s the famous gay play ‘The Boys in The Band.’
Written by Martin Crowley, and fresh from last year’s run at the Park Theatre, the durability of this play is a testament to the crisp and hilarious writing, and the performances of the actors, of the trials and tribulations of eight gay men (and one possibly straight man) which makes this play endure.
The story, in case you don’t know, is about a birthday party for Harold (a very good Mark Gatiss), a posh 42-year old gay man who seems to have everything. The party takes place in the very nice apartment of Michael (Ian Hallard, Gatiss’s real-life husband), with posters of film divas (Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis and lots of Judy Garland) that cleverly hang on the walls. The first to arrive at the birthday party is Donald (Daniel Boys), good looking and employed as a cleaner. He seems to be the most stable of the bunch. Then there’s Hank (Nathan Nolan) and Larry (Ben Mansfield), a couple who bring down the mood because of the constant tension between them. Do they really love each other? Then there’s Emory (an excellent James Holmes – the true star of the show). He’s witty, camp, funny and hilarious with the best lines. Emory, incidentally, has hired a not too smart male stripper named Cowboy (Jack Derges) who was supposed to arrive at Midnight (Midnight Cowboy – get it?), but arrives before the birthday boy gets there. He’s as hot and sexy as you would expect, and Derges plays him perfectly. Then there is a straight friend of Michael’s who comes to the party because he happens to be nearby. Throw this in along with a phone game and all of this creates more drama and tension in a play with a multitude of characters that you will either love or hate, though more than likely you will hate them
‘The Boys in the Band’ is a play that is very outdated. It portrays gay men as bitter, angry and more importantly, lonely and outcast, but times have changed. And this show, which has been produced many times, has the same cast who were in the Park Theatre production last October. The actors are all very good (Holmes is really living it up on stage and looks like he’s really enjoying himself), the set is very clever, and the rest of the cast are very good, but it’s time to put this story to bed. ‘The Boys in the Band’ has been done to death. And as one of the characters says in the show ‘show me a happy homosexual and I’ll show you a gay corpse’ – this show is no longer relevant.
‘The Boys in the Band’ is playing at London’s Vaudeville Theatre until Saturday, February 18th.
Tim Baros writes film and theatre articles/ reviews for Pride Life and The American magazines and websites, as well as for Hereisthecity.com, Blu-RayDefinition.com and TheGayUK.com. He has also written for In Touch and TNT Magazines, SquareMile.com and LatinoLife.co.uk. He is a voting member for the UK Regional Critics Circle and the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA – of which he is the UK representative). In addition, he has produced and directed two films: The Shirt and Rex Melville Desire: The Musical.