We’ve been waiting for this one all year, but the idea of an especially toxic social gathering hits differently now, somehow.
More than fifty years after Mart Crowley’s play became an unexpected smash hit for putting gay men’s lives center stage with honesty and humor, THE BOYS IN THE BAND returns to the screen in a new adaptation that reunites acclaimed director Joe Mantello with the all-star cast of the Tony-winning, 2018 Broadway production. In 1968 New York City – when being gay was still considered to be best kept behind closed doors – a group of friends gather for a raucous birthday party hosted by Michael (Jim Parsons), a screenwriter who spends and drinks too much, in honor of the sharp-dressed and sharp-tongued Harold (Zachary Quinto). Other partygoers include Donald (Matt Bomer), Michael’s former flame, now mired in self-analysis; Larry (Andrew Rannells), a randy commercial artist living with Hank (Tuc Watkins), a school teacher who has just left his wife; Bernard (Michael Benjamin Washington), a librarian tiptoeing around fraught codes of friendship alongside Emory (Robin de Jesús), a decorator who never holds back; and a guileless hustler (Charlie Carver), hired to be Harold’s gift for the night. What begins as an evening of drinks and laughs gets upended when Alan (Brian Hutchison), Michael’s straight-laced college roommate, shows up unexpectedly and each man is challenged to confront long-buried truths that threaten the foundation of the group’s tight bond.
As gay men a generation or two behind the ones depicted in the play, we’re fascinated by the cultural journey The Boys in the Band has made in the last fifty years. When we came out, it was largely considered a relic of our community’s self-loathing, sex-panicked past. Stonewall and the AIDS crisis had rendered the story and the characters retroactively pathetic and the cultural focus of queer fiction and drama shifted towards more noble liberation and survival themes. We think the more or less successful assimilation of the middle-class white gay male into mainstream culture (and the concurrent centering of trans voices and queer POC in the LGBTQ community) has ironically turned this play back into an important document of an era; a snapshot of a time when men like these were forced to severely compartmentalize themselves in order to make their way through the world. It also still works as a critique of the toxicity of gay male social spaces.
The cast looks great (and comes pre-critically acclaimed, since they all performed together in the Tony-winning Broadway revival). We’ll be on the couch, cocktails in hand on September 30th.
[Photo Credit: Scott Everett White/Netflix – Video Credit: Netflix via YouTube]