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Some men, some stories at The Ringwald

By |2008-01-17T09:00:00-05:00January 17th, 2008|Entertainment|

Splash some male nudity on stage and it’s a guarantee that gay men will pack the house. But wrap the goodies in a compelling work that traces the development of gay rights – and in particular, gay male relationships – since the early 20th century, and the result is an engaging production that does far more than titillate: It makes you think.
The aptly titled “Some Men” by Terrence McNally, now playing at Ferndale’s Ringwald Theatre, is just that: brief stories about some men in New York City. They’re old, they’re young; they’re butch, they’re flaming; they’re coupled and they’re single – and they’re all at a wedding at the famous Waldorf-Astoria hotel in 2007. But it’s not just ANY wedding: It’s a GAY wedding – which catapults the nine into a series of loosely connected vignettes that begs us to ponder the following: Despite the political and social progress that brought us out of the closet and in front of the altar as groom and groom, are gay men REALLY any happier today than we were in the pre-Stonewall days? And are we really better off – not as homos, but as homogenized with the rest of society?
Following the brief introduction are a dozen non-linear jumps through time in which McNally introduces us to a wide range of familiar characters. It is through their eyes and personal experiences that the playwright compares and contrasts gay life through the decades. And as the play progresses, certain themes become apparent.
One is how gay men meet and form relationships. (Is there really much of a difference between hooking up with a guy at a bathhouse circa 1975 or via an internet chat room in 2004?) Another is the generation gap. (In one such scene, two out-and-proud gender studies students dismiss the lives of two non-militant “elder queers” they are interviewing for a school project at Vassar. “We didn’t know we could change things,” one of the interviewees says. “We just wanted to be happy.”)
McNally – who’s mined similar territory in earlier work such as “The Ritz” and “Love! Valour! Compassion!” – fills “Some Men” with waggish quips and colorful personalities. Yet because of its unorthodox construction, the audience rarely gets to know most of his characters – many of whom border on traditional gay stereotypes. And since there are no women to be found on stage – and the men are mainly well-to-do white guys (hence the name “Some Men” rather than “All Men”) – the script’s appeal might be limited.
Such restrictions, however, only served to inspire director Joe Bailey to flesh out each scene by finding each character’s heart. And he allows each actor – all of whom play multiple, often non-recurring roles – to dig deeply into the souls of their characters, the result of which are several fine and heart-touching performances.
Veteran actor Charles Van Hoose especially shines as Archie/Roxie, a foul-mouthed drag queen who finds herself in an inhospitable gay piano bar across the street from the raging Stonewall rebellion.
And handsome Jon Ager excels as popular chat room participant Top Dog in a lengthy scene in which his clear focus, body language and subtle mood shifts are phenomenal.
But it’s Dan Morrison – known mostly as a comedic actor – who creates the most honest and carefully delineated character of the production: Bernie, a closeted family man who we gradually watch leave his wife and find a lover (also played well by Jamie Richards) with whom he gracefully and comfortably grows older.

(FOR “REVIEW BOX”)
REVIEW:
‘Some Men’
Who Wants Cake? Theatre at The Ringwald, 22742 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Fri.-Mon., through Jan. 28. Contains brief nudity. Tickets: $10-$20. For information: 248-556-8581 or http://www.whowantscaketheatre.com

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