Boys in the Band, in an Intimate Setting, Opens in NYC

News   Boys in the Band, in an Intimate Setting, Opens in NYC Transport Group Theatre Company's new Off-Broadway revival of Mart Crowley's The Boys in the Band, opening Feb. 21, is unlike past New York City productions. It places the audience in and around the setting of a tension-filled gathering of men.
The Boys in the Band cast members Aaron Sharff, Jonathan Hammond, Jon Levenson and Nick Westrate.
The Boys in the Band cast members Aaron Sharff, Jonathan Hammond, Jon Levenson and Nick Westrate. Photo by Carol Rosegg

The ensemble drama from 1968 was one of the first plays to feature (mostly) uncloseted gay men in their contemporary natural habitat — at least from playwright Crowley's point of view for this play. It ran 1,000 performances in its original Off-Broadway production.

For the 21st century, Jack Cummings III, artistic director of Transport Group, directs this latest revival as a site-specific "environmental production" where the audience sits among the action to "feel like they are flies on the wall in Michael's apartment," he said.

The Boys in the Band (which began previews Feb. 12) plays a created 99-seat venue at 37 West 26th Street, on the 12th Floor, between Sixth Avenue and Broadway. The venue is in a commercial building; the space was between tenants. "From what I've been told," Cummings told Playbill.com, "it was photographers loft/studio."

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The play is a period snapshot of a conflict-filled gathering of gay pals in a time when the modern gay movement was just starting to emerge in major cities in the U.S. Some critics today bristle at the self-hatred sometimes evident in the play's characters, but the work also inspired a generation of gay writers and playwrights who were aching to see some kind of gay life depicted in a pop-cultural world where "Pillow Talk," Clint Eastwood and "Gunsmoke" ruled the day. Transport Group's The Boys in the Band features Ragtime's Jonathan Hammond as Michael; 110 in the Shade's Christopher Innvar as Larry; Brooklyn Boy and Twelfth Night's Kevin Isola as Alan; Irish Rep veteran Jon Levenson as Harold; London Ragtime Olivier nominee Kevyn Morrow as Bernard; Love Musik's Graham Rowat as Hank; Aaron Sharff, of Shakespeare & Company's Measure for Measure, as Cowboy; John Wellmann, of Transport Group's cul-de-sac, as Emory; and Juilliard grad Nick Westrate (Broadway's A Moon for the Misbegotten) as Donald.

According to Transport Group, "The Boys in the Band represents a major milestone in American theatre as the first play to openly portray the pleasures, miseries and private lives of gay men. It's set during Harold's 32nd birthday party. The evening begins as a hilarious and spirited celebration among friends until unexpected guests and games reveal tensions that unravel these men's souls. The party moves to a heart-wrenching, and climactic end."

The production team includes associate director Greg Wiggans, stage manager Wendy Patten, set designer Sandra Goldmark, lighting designer Dane Laffrey and costume designer Kathryn Rohe.

The Boys in the Band was seen in a Transport Group reading (followed by a panel discussion) in June 2008. That presentation featured Patrick Boll, Manoel Felciano, Barrett Foa, Malcolm Gets, David Greenspan, Jonathan Hammond, Christopher Innvar, Norm Lewis and John Wellman.

In 1968, Robert Moore directed a cast that included Cliff Gorman (1968 Obie Award, Distinguished Performance), Leonard Frey, Laurence Luckinbill, Kenneth Nelson, Frederick Combs, Reuben Greene, Robert La Tourneaux and Keith Prentice.

A 1970 film version followed (it was released on DVD with special features in fall 2008). A new documentary about the play, "Making the Boys," was screened at the Tribeca Film Festival and is seeking a wider release.

A 1996 production at Lucille Lortel Theatre played 88 performances and featured David Greenspan (who won an Obie Award for his work in it), Christopher Sieber, David Drake and more.

"The Collected Plays of Mart Crowley" was published by Alyson Books in November 2009.

The Boys in the Band plays Wednesday through Friday at 8 PM; Saturday at 4 PM and 8 PM; and Sunday at 5 PM through March 14. There will be an added performance on Feb. 15 at 8 PM.

Tickets, which are $38-$45, are available at www.transportgroup.org or by phoning (866) 811-4111 or (212) 352-3101. Online box office is available 24 hours; theatre box office opens one hour before curtain time.

Tickets ($10-$45) are now available at transportgroup.org.

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Transport Group is the recipient of a Special Drama Desk Award for its "breadth of vision and presentation of challenging productions."

Christopher Innvar, John Wellmann, Kevin Isola, Jon Levenson, Kevyn Morrow, Nick Westrate and Graham Rowat
Christopher Innvar, John Wellmann, Kevin Isola, Jon Levenson, Kevyn Morrow, Nick Westrate and Graham Rowat
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