BWW Reviews: Country Playhouse's THE BOYS IN THE BAND - Surprisingly Relevant, Great Retro Show
Jerrod Tettey plays Bernard, who is the first victim of Michael's phone game. In calling his boyhood crush, he bares his soul for the audience in a monologue that is as weighty and meaty as an operatic aria. Until this moment, and in the moments following, Bernard is merely a background character. Despite this, Jerrod Tettey breathes tangible life into the character, which by today's standards is a composite stereotype of a gay man who never escaped the bond and attraction he felt for a peer.
Tad Howington plays straight-acting Hank. This character offers glimpses into the dynamic relationships between gay men and straight men with a twist of dramatic irony, as the audience knows that Hank is gay long before Alan does. Like Bernard, Hank is a character that audiences are very familiar with-the gay divorcee and father. Unfortunately, as Tad Howington's Hank engages in a battle over monogamy with his partner Larry, his character's archetype reads as stilted. It simply does not carry the same dynamics that Jerrod Tettey's Bernard does.
The über-promiscuous Larry is adroitly played by Bob Galley. Complete with a half-buttoned shirt and golden necklace, Bob Galley's characterization of the bath house all star created a seedy, sleazy character-a gay Leisure Suit Larry, if you will. In light of this though, the character and his partner (Tad Howington's Hank) get to discuss promiscuousness and the homosexual identity, which many still use in arguments against the marriage of homosexual couples. Yet, Larry, who is most-likely helping the spread of Hepatitis among the gay community in NYC and would be a prime suspect in the spread of HIV, is terribly unlikeable because his refusal to be monogamous is purely selfish. Being wholly unlikable simply allows Bob Galley to bring out the scummy nature of this character.
As the straight Alan, Louis Crespo is forceful and powerful in his ability to harbor animosity. He instantly conveys his contempt and disgust for Michael's lifestyle and friends. The audience sees him build to the climatic fight that ends the first act. In the second act, the audience then sees him retreat into himself to avoid the discomfiting situation that Michael has forced him to become enmeshed in. Louis Crespo's characterization significantly displays Alan's bold stand against Michael when choosing to participate in the devious phone game.
Playing Harold, L. RoBert Westeen presents the audience with a character that is caught up on the superficiality of outward appearances. His sole concern is about his tarnished looks. The character is emotionally stunted by his own pretensions and reads as emotionally stagnant to his friends and the audience.
Jake Bevill's Cowboy is expertly played as the dumb piece of meat hired to be Harold's boy toy for the evening. As a prostitute he stays out of the infighting of the group, doing only what he has been paid for.
Set design and construction of the show is simply astounding, especially considering that it was done on a slim budget at a community theatre. The set emanates a professional vibe. It utilizes space magnificently and reads posh 60s apartment with ease. There is the cool and sublime dual tone green striped walls for the living room and the bold, cool blue for Michael's bedroom. Perhaps the best decoration of the set comes from the Andy Warhol Pop art inspired painting of Travis Springfield as Michael. Likewise, John Kaiser's paint job for the hard wood floors looks great on the stage as well. Even with their standing as a community theatre, this is one of the best sets I have seen built for a Houston stage since I began reviewing for BroadwayWorld last May.
Sound Design, Light Design, and Costume Design are all wonderfully effective and each achieves the goal it has in mind without any complications.
The Country Playhouse's production of Mart Crowley's THE BOYS IN THE BAND is a great, retrospective look into an era not far from our own. The play discusses relevant and topical issues that encourage audiences to engage in conversations of their own, even in 2013. Some of the characters read as stereotyped and even dated, and that is simply because the play itself, as a groundbreaking piece, opened the door for depictions of homosexual men in media. Despite being dated, the play still stands on its own and should be seen and discussed. I don't recommend that you miss an opportunity to take a trip back in time to see a revolutionary play that accurately shows just how far we've come while highlighting how far we still need to go as a society.
THE BOYS IN THE BAND runs on Country Playhouse's Cerwinske Stage through January 26, 2013. For more information and tickets, please visit http://countryplayhouse.org/or call (713) 467-4497.
All photos by David Yannone, White Moth Productions, courtesy of Country Playhouse.
Happy Birthday Harold! L to R: Adam Richardson as Donald, Tad Howington as Hank, Bob Galley as Larry, Travis Springfield as Michael, L. RoBert Westeen as Harold, Jerrod Tetty as Bernard, Jay Menchaca as Emory, Louis Crespo as Alan, and Jake Bevill as Cowboy.
The Boys Fight. L to R: Bob Galley as Larry, Jay Menchaca as Emory, Louis Crespo as Alan, and Travis Springfield as Michael.