Although Terence Mcnally’s play, “Some Men,” alternates between the comedic, the erotic, the painful, and the political, the tone is always thoughtful and melancholic. The audience sees generations of gay men struggle with their families, their identities, AIDS, inter-personal relationships, social ostracism, and political disenfranchisement. The various narratives are too numerous to summarize in full here , but two of the highlights include a scene in which an online chat room is creatively and convincingly staged, and an emotionally affecting scene ina 1960’s gay bar in New York City during the Stonewall Riots, on the day of Judy Garland’s funeral, that has a melancholic grandeur which anchors the rest of the play. The script tries to loosely tie the many narratives and characters together, but this proves impossible and counterproductive. Because the same actors are being used in different sequences that take place over nearly a century, we are never sure if the same actor is an older or younger version of a character from a previous sequence (this sometimes happens), if an actor is a character that is a descendant or ancestor of an earlier character (which seemed to happen at least once), or if an actor is playing someone else completely (which I think did happen). If this sounds confusing, that’s because it is.
Fortunately, superb direction by David Zak and Derick Van Barham, as well excellent acting by the entire cast, bring out what is great about Terence McNally’s script. Although the first and last scene is a gay wedding, the play largely starts emotionally and narratively with the private lives of gay men and the pain they experience in their relationships: both with straight society and each-other. From there it works outward, giving the audience a sense of the more official forms of persecution that gay men have faced, and finally, the political and social disenfranchisement, but rather than only seeing the oppression of gay men (which we do see), we also see recent victories in gay rights: gay couples adopting children, gay men getting married. Ben Burke, Thomas Hansen, and Sam-Button Harrison in particular demonstrate incredible versatility moving between one character and another quickly and convincingly with only the help of different costumes (Raquel Adorno). All the actors, in conjunction with a hopeful dreamscape (by Tianyu Qui), and beautiful music by Robert Ayres, consistently bring out the intense feelings of hope and pain in Terence McNally’s script while the comic relief remains just that: relief. It never threatens to become distasteful which too often happens when comedy intrudes on any piece of art regarding the suffering of real people or groups.
Some Men is playing at “The Rivendell Theatre” Thursday through Sundays until September 13th 2014.The performances are as follows:
Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.
Sundays at 6 p.m.
The theatre is located at 5779 N. Ridge located near the Bryn Mawr Redline stop. Parking is available on the street and at Senn Hugh School Lot. Tickets are 20 dollars apiece for students and seniors and 30 dollars for regular admission. They can purchased at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/705631
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Some Men”.