Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bulletin from Broadway No. 3: 'The Temperamentals'

Thomas Jay Ryan,‭ ‬Arnie Burton, and ‬Michael Urie in‭ The Temperamentals.

By Hap Erstein

More rain Monday and still way too cold for the end of April.

Since it was a Monday,‭ ‬most Broadway theaters were dark,‭ ‬but there is a complex of converted discount movie houses at West‭ ‬50th Street that has a handful of auditoriums‭ ‬--‭ ‬an off-Broadway multiplex,‭ ‬if you will‭ ‬--‭ ‬and an engrossing new play by Jon Marans‭ (‬Old Wicked Songs‭) ‬called The Temperamentals,‭ ‬which turns out to be a code word for‭ “‬gays‭” ‬in the‭ ‬1950s.

It is a somewhat fictionalized history of the Mattachine Society,‭ ‬an early sociopolitical activism group for gay rights in a very closeted period in America,‭ ‬long before the breakthrough of the Stonewall riot in‭ ‬1969.

Most of this history was new to me,‭ ‬which made differentiating fact from fiction difficult,‭ ‬but the story was involving and Marans focused on the personal dramas within the movement which gave the play some emotional hooks.‭ ‬In the foreground are Harry Hay‭ (‬Thomas Jay Ryan‭)‬,‭ ‬a pioneer Mattachine leader and Communist Party member,‭ ‬and his lover,‭ ‬Rudi Gernreich‭ (‬Ugly Betty’s Michael Urie‭)‬,‭ ‬who would go on to fame and fortune as the designer of the topless bathing suit.

Expect The Temperamentals to get numerous productions across the country after its New York run,‭ ‬thanks in part to its small cast and nonexistent production requirements.


During the afternoon,‭ ‬I schlepped downtown to interview choreographer Joey McKneeley,‭ ‬a former dancer in Jerome Robbins‭’ ‬Broadway who was anointed by the legendary,‭ ‬difficult director to be the keeper of the flame,‭ ‬to re-create the dances of West Side Story for major productions such as the current Broadway revival,‭ ‬the national tour coming to the Kravis Center next season and an international tour that McKneeley also directed.

Already recognized for his own choreography on Smokey Joe’s Café,‭ ‬The Life and The Boy from Oz,‭ ‬he spoke of several projects about to surface in which he also moves into the director’s chair.‭ ‬If the musical theater survives‭ ‬--‭ ‬sorry,‭ ‬this season seems to put that matter in doubt‭ ‬--‭ ‬McKneeley could be an influential figure in its future.

Next:‭ ‬The Addams Family‭ (‬snap-snap‭) ‬and The Easter Bonnet Competition‭

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