Friday September 22nd 2017

“The Nance” review by Carol Moore

Recommended *** Pride Films and Plays production of “The Nance” takes us into the naughty world of burlesque in ‘40s New York City.  In “The Nance”, we not only see the skits and strips, we get to go backstage to see the company’s offstage camaraderie as well.  Playwright Douglas Carter Beane’s script not only brings the Irving Park Theatre to life, but also shines a light on the perils which were inherent in the lifestyle of a gay man in the ‘40s.  3 ½ Spotlights

It’s hard for today’s audiences to understand, but morality laws were firmly in place, so burlesq

ue had to rely on double entendres, ribald sketches and glimpses of strippers’ bodies to amuse and tantalize their audiences.  They used stock characters like the comic, the straight man, the juvenile, the nance, the shrewish wife the naïve virgin and the insatiable woman in their sketches.  In most companies, the nance is played by the same actor who plays the juvenile.

Handsome, distinguished-looking Chauncey (Vince Kracht) is a popular and successful actor in burlesque.  Unlike most of the actors who play the ‘nance’ on stage, he is gay, in a time when being gay was illegal.  He’s also a Republican (isn’t that an oxymoron?).

In New York City, as Chauncey reads the newspaper in the Automat (a favorite, but heavily policed, hangout for gay men), he sees a young man surreptitiously adding catsup to a glass of water (often a sign of starvation).  After sharing a sandwich, he took Ned (Royen Kent) home with him.

At the theater, Efram (Patrick Rybarczyk) plays the straight man and/or the comic to Chauncey’s ‘nance’.  Strippers, Joan (Britt-Marie Sivertsen), Carmen (Steph Vondell) and Sylvie (Melissa Young), also sing, dance and act in sketches.  When the juvenile quits, Ned is drafted into the show.

On stage, Chauncey is uproariously funny and outrageously ‘nance’ as he prances and poses.  Even though the NYC police are raiding burlesque houses and arresting actors, he’s not worried because he’s sure it’s all just re-election tactics which will go away after the election, at least until the Irving Park is raided and he’s arrested.

Outraged by the raids and arrests, the various unions – actors, musicians, stagehands – organize a protest.  Joan (who flirts with the Communist Party), rallies everyone to go to the protest which will begin when the radio musicians quit playing at 10:00 am, but Chauncey refuses because he knows nothing will happen.  Joan is in denial until she hears the radio music continuing past the deadline.

Director John Nasca has done a lot in the Broadway’s tiny space.  Café-style tables and chairs are arranged in front of a small stage across one corner.  At the rear of the stage, musicians playing inside a frame, while the strippers and comics perform in front of it.  A curtain covers the musicians whenever the action leaves the theater.

“The Nance” runs through July 30th in The Broadway, Pride Arts Center, 4139 N. Broadway, Chicago.

Running time is 2 hours, 20 minutes, with an intermission.

Performances are:

Thursday   7:30 p.m

Friday  7:30 p.m.,

Saturday  7:30 p.m.

Sunday at 5:00 pm, with additional Wednesday performances on July 19th and 26th at 7:30 pm.

Tickets at $40 for reserved seating, $30 for general admission. Street parking is hard to find in this neighborhood.  The best option is a metered lot at Belle Plaine and Clarendon (about 2 ½ blocks from the Pride Center).  FYI (800) 737-0984 or www.pridefilmsandplays.com.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “The Nance”

 

 

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