The Boys in the Band

Released: September 30, 2020
Watched: January 2, 2021

“Show me a happy homosexual and I’ll show you a gay corpse.”

May be an image of furniture and living room
Set of The Boys in the Band, Dominion Stage, Spring 2016

I coordinated the set build when Dominion Stage produced The Boys in the Band in Spring 2016. Because I built the set, I got to watch the play for free. Since the play was not accessible, I read the script, watched the actors on the stage, then read the script again. Even though the actors did a fantastic job (from what I could tell), I didn’t like the script itself, which colored my overall opinion. I wondered if seeing the play with captions would change my view.

Well, I’ve seen the movie. It’s well acted, and I still want to live in Michael’s loft.

The Boys in the Band (2020): A shot of Alan’s loft apartment.

I recognize the play for the groundbreaking work it is — it clearly informed later written gay literature (esp. Mordden’s The Buddies Cycle). I continue to be fascinated with the pervading sense of melancholy in 20th-century LGBT works. It’s fascinating to watch these characters grapple with their internalized heteronormativity/homophobia.

That being said, I still really struggle with the deep self-loathing and the mean-spiritedness (especially once Harold arrives at the party). It’s one thing to be blunt or to tease friends, but these characters tear each other down in order to make themselves feel better. It’s one thing to incorporate flaws to make layered human characters, but these characters seem too deeply flawed with too few redeeming qualities. It’s hard to imagine them wanting to spend time with each other. A friend postulated that it might be a self-defense mechanism to cope with the challenges of living as a gay man (closeted or not) in the 1950s, and these friends are bonded by that shared trauma. Perhaps my generation should consider ourselves so lucky…

Interestingly enough: when I posted this on my FB, people said that the stage version is much more funnier and that both movie versions (this and the 1970 version starring the original Broadway cast) had the same problem: filming sucks up all the levity and humor out of the stage version.

I may have to give this two more tries — seeing the original 1970 movie and seeing an accessible stage version.

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