Presented by Zeitgeist Stage Company
By Mart Crowley
Directed by David J. Miller
Review by Kitty Drexel
(Boston, MA) In performance, sometimes it is more important to get a pivotal work onstage than it is to do it perfectly. Zeitgeist’s production of The Boys in the Band is flawed. Its flaws are less important than bringing this historically game-changing play to the stage for new generations to contemplate. Just as it is more important to treat the LGBTQ+ community with the respect and dignity we deserve than to be polite.
Audiences were shocked when Boys premiered in 1968. Previously, gay men were only punchlines in jokes and dark alleys. They weren’t people. Stonewall was a year away. Animosity was building. For Michael, Harold and the rest to be unabashedly, unforgivably themselves was both literally and figuratively revolutionary: Michael (Victor Shopov) is throwing a birthday party for Harold (Ryan Landry) who, despite being fabulous for any age, fears his incipient mortality. Friends new and old join the party in stages and drink, and drink, and drink. The unexpected arrival of noted hetero, Alan (Brooks Reeves) throws a wrench into the works.
Boys has a rough start. Shopov and Diego Buscaglia (as Donald) don’t have enough energy between them to carry the first 20 minutes of the play alone. We don’t believe that they’re close friends who care about each other.
The momentum of the show picked up with the arrival of the other guests but the cast lacked cohesion. Individually the actors delivered excellent performances but their unified front was lacking. The actors weren’t working against each other but they weren’t working with each other either… Until Reeves hit the stage. The gay characters were noticeably allied against the straight dude but by then it was too late to win over the audience.
Lastly, it was hotter than Ryan Gosling mud wrestling Ryan Reynolds in a sauna at Burning Man in the theater that night. Please turn on the AC.
Again, the individual performances were great. In fact, many of the elements used to create this production are excellent on their own (the kitschy set by Michael Clark Wonson comes to mind. When combined, it’s another story. This pales in comparison with the significance of The Boys in the Band as a piece of LGBTQ+ history. It’s only been 47 years since its premier. Look at how far we’ve come! Look at how far we’ve yet to go.