The classic gay play was first produced in New York City in 1968, a year before the Stonewall riots. I had seen the film previously and while I enjoyed it, it remained something of a cultural time-piece.
The play mentions in the program it's hopes of not being dated with the director saying "I wanted the era to be somewhat unknown". This fails miserably, but it's not like they really try. From the outfits to the records to the rotary phone, the set has obviously been designed as a period piece and the only mention of modernization is from the program, so I'm not sure where he was going with this. It still feels dated, but new life is brought from the cast and for the first time I could see the characters as real people, and the drama as believable.
The play is presented in an open concept style, possibly due to space limitations. The desired effect is sometimes reached, where you feel in the action, another guest at the party. More often though it just feels cramped. The theatre has flimsy chairs and rotating yourself around in them constantly to see the action proved tiresome. At one point I had to move slightly so an actor could hit his mark, and the crab dip served at the party was about a foot away from me, I could smell it all night long.
I don't want to seem too down on the experience, I am very glad I went, and the play is a great artifact of our collective gay history. I think the problem with doing something so culturally iconic though is it does bring comparisons, and in some cases highlight the shortfalls.
Overall the cast was good but they really needed more rehearsal time as a group. I would suggest seeing this play later on in the run after there's been more time to perfect the dialogue. I know the play is wordy, but the lead Matthew Romantini as Michael, in the first act especially he kept saying the wrong line, then going back and correcting himself and repeating the line properly. People don't talk like this and I would have preferred if he had continued with the wrong line and worked something out, then we might not have noticed every single time he flubbed. It doesn't have to be an exact reading and the constant starting and stopping drew us away from the drama of the story, and away from his character.
It really felt like everyone went off and learned their lines individually, which is why I say the play could benefit with more rehearsal. The friend I came with said there was supposed to be a lot of characters talking over each other but often when it happened you could see the wince from the actor, the face that said "Whoops, that wasn't my place!" or conversely the long pauses where we waited for the actors to figure out who's line it was next. This happened more than an acceptable numbers of times and is something that should hopefully be ironed out later in the run.
The standouts were Jonathan Morton-Schuster as Emory and Cole J. Alvis as Harold. Both brought over the top life to over the top roles and gave fearless, nuanced performances.
I'm hopeful the few flaws I mentioned will improve and overall I'm very grateful for the chance to see this classic work live on stage.