Some Men: Love, American Style
While most hot political issues are resolved through heated debate, massive public demonstrations and sometimes angry protest, Terrance McNally's Some Men argues in favor of gay marriage rights through simple romanticism and good-natured humor. Its most heart-tugging scene depicts a group of a gay men gathered in a Sheridan Square piano bar taking a brief respite from discussing which musical was the first to win the Pulitzer and the proper way to mix a martini ("I honestly think vodka is responsible for the generation gap.") to quietly listen to a transvestite's wispy performance of "Over The Rainbow" while the sounds of the violent Stonewall revolt, taking place just yards away, tries to pierce through their secluded haven. When a fellow asks, "Would you marry me, if you could?" his lover insists, "We're beyond that," while just outside the door police are trying to hold down an angry mob demanding their rights.
In another beautifully tender scene, long-time couple Scoop and Aaron (David Greenspan and Don Amendolia, who perfect the comic give and take of an old married couple) can't understand why the college students interviewing them for a gender studies project are so angered by their feeling that they were able to live like princes in the pre-Stonewall era, a time the youngsters can only interpret as a "closet of repression and hypocrisy that your generation lived in all your lives."
"It was different then," says Scoop. "We didn't make so much of a fuss. Maybe we should have We didn't know we could change it. We just wanted to be happy."
McNally isn't criticizing loud and aggressive behavior in fighting for civil rights, of course, but when addressing an issue that so often refers to "lifestyles" and "the privacy of one's bedroom" Some Men tosses all the rhetoric out the window and repeatedly reminds us that it's all about love. It's not a terribly complicated play, which seems the author's intention, but it's a sweet, romantic and funny evening that gently massages your heart with warmth.
Beginning and ending at a gay marriage taking place in 2007 at New York's Waldorf-Astoria, McNally has the ensemble cast pop back and forth through time (staying in New York for all but a couple of brief excursions to the Hamptons) in a series of vignettes depicting gay men in various romantic and sexual situations. Though each short piece can stand on its own, there are continuing characters to watch for. It's a little difficult at first to recognize someone as being from a previous scene, since each actor also plays people who appear only once, but that's only a minor problem.
Aside from Scoop and Aaron, who we first see together in an amusing scene where they're visiting a bathhouse for the first time, the major recurring character in the play is Bernie (Kelly AuCoin), a family man who takes his first step toward admitting his homosexuality by testing the waters with hustler Zach (Pedro Pascal) and then enters a committed relationship with Carl (Romain Fruge), who he bonds with on a steamy bathhouse evening. But years later when Bernie's son Perry (Jesse Hooker) takes steps to have a child with his partner Marcus (Michael McElroy), he has doubts about the validity of same sex couples as parents.
A dapper McElroy opens the second act with a touching turn as a 1932 Harlem nightclub performer named Angel Eyes, singing "Ten Cents a Dance" while reminiscing about the short, bald man who said he wrote the lyric especially for him ("He thought he was ugly. He drank too much. Maybe that's why."), catching himself before accidentally saying the name aloud.
Other scenes involve a military funeral where an army vet whose son died in Iraq (Amendolia) meets the soldier who was his partner (Frederick Weller), a 1922 surfside frolic where the relationship between a wealthy young man (Pascal) and his uneducated chauffer (Hooker) seems more threatened by class consciousness than homophobia and visits to an internet chat room for cruisers and an AIDS ward at the height of the epidemic.
Through the many shifts in tone and place, Trip Cullman directs his exceptional ensemble cast with a light touch, making Some Men far more entertaining than preachy. Mark Wendland's simple and elegant set, first representing one of the Waldorf's ballrooms, is lit with a kaleidoscope of soft, mood and place switching colors by Kevin Adams.
As plays about important issues go, Some Men doesn't give the appearance of being an important piece, but it is a moving one. And how nice it is to be moved to smile.
Photos by Joan Marcus: Top: David Greenspan and Don Amendolia
Center: Romain Fruge and Kelly AuCoin
Bottom: David Greenspan and Kelly AuCoin