Mart Crowley's 2002 sequel to his landmark 1968 play about a gaggle of gays in a party-and-plunder mode got a reading by Transport Group, the Off-Broadway company applauded by critics for its site-specific Boys in the Band. So whatever happened to the boys? Here's a report from the one-night-only Sunday reading. There is no full production planned, but we still feel obliged to slap a SPOILER ALERT here.
This new party is "a celebration of life" — the post-funeral wind-down for Larry. You probably thought his "gypsy feet" finally caught up with him, but not. Cancer did. And his once-married life-partner (and now grandfather), Hank (Anthony Newfield), is the most consistent and conspicuous griever in the room. But the boys are all wearing their years like men.
"The good thing about Alzheimer's is that you get to hide your own Easter eggs," cheerfully camps Emory, here played by the same actor who does the role in the earlier play, John Wellmann. Some new, young-blood characters were played by the Donald and Michael of the current production, Nick Westrate and Jonathan Hammond. "Cut me in two and count my rings," Emory hisses at them.
The latter-day Michael (Stephen Bogardus) — no saint, he — is still playing party host in his fierce fashion, mercifully unfueled by booze. Best bud Donald (Gregg Edelman) is now the one hitting the sauce heavily. The most contented of the lot is Bernard, "the African queen" (Gerry McIntyre), and credit goes to the love of a good woman.
David Greenspan, who played the ominously preening Harold in the 1996 revival, repeated the honors here. Forty more birthdays haven't made Harold any more punctual, even though he was at the funeral with his new conquest, a blond "actor/singer/dancer/waiter." Harold glides through what's left of the party with his usual withering wit, concealing to all but Michael that he is dying of AIDS.
"I don't run around with a pad and pencil writing things down," Crowley admitted after the show, "but that scene between Michael and Harold is pretty authentic. It actually did happen to the friend I based Harold on. He kept it from me as long as he could, then one night he called me and said, 'I've got to see you.' I said, 'Ivan, what the hell's this about?’ Then he came over, and we practically played that scene."
That was the most exact example of art imitating life, he said. "Things departed artistically from real life. The fellow that Donald was originally based on died of cancer, and I transferred his malady to Larry. Things are all mixed up in the head."
A sequel to The Boys in the Band was, understandably, a tough mountain to climb: "The first one took me five weeks. This one took me ten years. I was out to top the original because it's impossible. Lightning cannot strike twice like that."
The Men From the Boys premiered at The New Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco. This reading was the first time the play had ever been heard in New York.
"I'm like that line in the play: 'I'm that dreaded word, 'Survivor,'" Crowley remarked. "I've seen it all, and I'm still standing. I don't know why, but I’m still standing."
— Harry Haun