The 1968 off-Broadway production of Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band
was the first depiction of gay men to reach a mainstream audience. Defunkt Theatre offers a memorable production directed by Jon Kretzu (running in repertory with The Children’s Hour
; see review also on this page). Staged in a private home on East Burnside Street, an audience of roughly a dozen lines the walls of a midcentury-designed living room. The effect is intimacy not only with the actors, who at times stand inches from your face and even step on your shoe, but also between audience members: You share every laugh and awkward moment with the person sitting across the room. The play could be set today with only minimal line adjustments. The guests are archetypes for any group of gay men: the neurotic one, the know-it-all, the lothario, the butch one, the femme one, and so on. One-liners zing back and forth with zeal that would put Henny Youngman to shame, and the dishing and self-deprecation are relentless. Particularly magnetic is Harold (Matthew Kerrigan), who practically hisses his nihilistic worldview between puffs of his cigarette. When Michael (Jeffrey Arrington) accuses him of being late, he dryly retorts, “What I am, Michael, is a 32-year-old, ugly, pockmarked Jew fairy.” Equally but more joyfully engaging is Matthew Kern’s effeminate Emory. “Who do you have to fuck to get a drink around here?” he squeals. While many parts of The Boys in the Band
are relevant today, others—the shame, the self-hate, the blame on an overbearing mother—are quickly becoming vestiges of a more tortured time. Perhaps gay culture is fleeting, and perhaps that’s good. Maybe years from now, the next generation will watch Will and Grace
reruns and imagine how different things used to be.
3125 E Burnside St.Website: https://www.boxofficetickets.com/bot/wa/event?id=226815