In “A Star is Born” James Mason tells Judy Garland, ‘You’re singing for yourself and the boys in the band.'”

It’s someone’s birthday, and anyone can cry if they want to, and boy, do they want to.

In Joe Mantello’s (with writers Ned Martel) “The Boys in the Band,” we’re at Michael’s (Jim Parson) apartment on the upper East Side of Manhattan.

Harold (Zachary Quinto “Star Trek” ) is the birthday boy, and Michael’s throwing him a party by inviting a select group of old friends.

Mantello’s new version of “The Boys In The Band” is based on and faithful to, Mart Crowley’s off-Broadway play that debuted in 1968 and was revived on Broadway to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

The history of the gay community in America is ever changing, and the plot of “Boys” is creaky with age, and the dialogue slightly gray at the temples, but this cast is hand picked to bring it alive.

“Boys” has had a rocky time with the gay community then and now. It’s been adored, reviled, hated and ignored by straight and gay viewers alike.

But it’s back, and Crowley, then and now, inserts a knockout cast of all card-carrying members of the LGBTQ world on stage, and they’re nothing but amazing.

Emory, an event decorator, (an amazing Robin de Jesus) the full-out, no-pretense Puerto Rican, loaded with tattoos and bracelets.

It’s a hot summer night in the City that Never Sleeps, and as the play progresses, it gets hotter and darker, funnier and sadder, and eventually ends tragically.

Nobody dies, at least not in the flesh, but spirits fade, hearts that have been carefully nurtured for years, get tugged at, cracked and broken. Nobody leaves Michael’s party in one piece.

All the boys came to Michael’s to end the week with a hair-let-down good time, drink, smoke some stuff, laugh and cry.

But know going in that this evening took place pre-Stonewall, pre-AIDS explosions. The emotions played out here deal with guilt, broken hearts and the bottom of the stomach sickness of hiding in the time of gay slurs and … in plain sight.

Through the door comes Michael’s old flame Donald (Matt Bomer “White Collar”).

Bernard (Michael Benjamin Washington “30 Rock”) a calm, educated and refined peace maker, is the only black actor aboard and adds layers of class here.

Larry (Andrew Rannells, “Girls”) already a Broadway star, is cool, calculating and in full possession of his own secrets.

Hank, (Tuc Watkins “One Life to Live”) is a no nonsense school teacher who is about to be divorced. While all about him shatter into pieces, Hank keeps both loafers on the ground.

Throw in a male party stripper, dressed as “Midnight Cowboy” (Charlie Carver) whom Michael hired as a gift for Harold, Charlie plays it straight, he’s a play-for-a-dollar street gay and dumber than the cake.

There’s a surprise time bomb, here. Alan (Brian Hutchinson) playing a straight suburban married man. Alan arrives by surprise, having been dismissed by Michael in an earlier phone call. Crowley made it clear that he’s here for forgiveness.

The last scene plays out at a late night Catholic Mass, at what looks like St. Malachy’s “Actor’s Chapel” on the West Side. It was, and probably still is, the last call for repentance.

There’s a great jazzy upbeat ’60s background score with all of our favorites of the time. But Michael’s night walk is lacquered with a haunting Charlie Parker like saxophone mournful dirge.

“Boys” is a snapshot of the balloons and party favors of that noir era, before the AIDS hammer fell, the lights dimmed and the music stopped, and there are no copies of it in today’s gay scrapbooks. Sad.

 

J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.

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