In today’s Wall Street Journal I review the Broadway revival of Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band. Here’s a review.
* * *
Fifty years ago, “The Boys in the Band,” Mart Crowley’s blacker-than-black comedy about a group of gay friends who spend an evening clawing at one another’s scabs, opened off Broadway and became the talk of Manhattan. After running for 1,001 performances, it was turned by William Friedkin into a movie that starred the entire original cast, one of the finest films ever made of a contemporary play. But many members of the rising generation of young gay people thought it impolitic for Mr. Crowley to have dramatized the self-hatred felt by those older gay men who had internalized the wounding disapproval of the straight world (“Show me a happy homosexual and I’ll show you a gay corpse”). As a result, “The Boys in the Band” failed to transfer to Broadway and vanished from American stages shortly thereafter….
So why is the golden anniversary of the premiere of “The Boys in the Band” being celebrated with a Broadway production, a budget-buster starring Jim Parsons and Zachary Quinto and directed by Joe Mantello (“Three Tall Women”)? Because the Broadway productions of such gay-themed shows as “Angels in America,” “Falsettos,” “Mothers and Sons” and “The Normal Heart” have proved popular enough to suggest that this one would do at least as well. I wish I were more enthusiastic about the results, but there isn’t much to like about this emotionally evasive revival, which disserves Mr. Crowley’s beautifully, fearlessly wrought play in so many ways that I went home not merely disappointed but angry….
While the first half of “The Boys in the Band” is scabrously and for the most part unprintably funny, everyone at Michael’s party is skating on thin psychic ice, a fact that must be immediately evident to the audience if the play is to come off. This is especially true of the host, which is where Mr. Mantello’s production first goes wrong. Michael’s desperate self-loathing—he talks like a man who is squeezing a naked razor blade in his bare hand—is alien to Mr. Parsons, who has no trouble with the play’s comic moments but is at a loss when the emotional weather grows heavier in the second half. This throws everything else out of balance, as does the bland acting of most of the other cast members…
* * *
Read the whole thing here.
A featurette about the Broadway revival of The Boys in the Band:
The theatrical trailer for the 1970 film version of The Boys in the Band: