â€œNext Fallâ€, opening June 3rd at Playwrights Horizon, is one of a handful of gay-themed plays in New York timed to the 40th anniversary this month of the Stonewall riots that launched the modern gay rights movement.
It is an anniversary of sorts for gay theater as well, since Mart Crowley’s â€œThe Boys in The Band,â€ which set the mold for better or worse for hundreds if not thousands of gay-themed plays to follow, was produced off-Broadway just a year before Stonewall, in 1968.
Some of the most intriguing gay-themed theater this season, it must be said, is happening elsewhere. â€œAngels in Americaâ€ playwright Tony Kushner has debuted his new play â€œThe Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialismâ€ at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. In London this season, there were no fewer than eight gay-themed plays that reportedly were drawing crowds to West End theaters, including a stage version of the movie â€œPriscilla, Queen of the Desertâ€, Richard Greenberg’s â€œThree Days of Rain,â€ â€œProudâ€ about a gay boxer, and â€œPlague Over England,â€ which focused on celebrated actor Sir John Gielgud’s 1953 arrest in a public restroom for “importuning men for immoral purposes.”
A Washingon D.C. theater company is giving a reading on each of the remaining Mondays in June of landmark gay plays, one from each decade: Crowley’s “Boys in the Band” (1968); Martin Sherman’s “Bent” (1979); Harvey Fierstein’s “Torch Song Trilogy” (1982); Kushner’s “Angels in America” (1991/1992); Terrence McNally’s “Some Men” (2006)
In New York, â€œThe Temperamentalsâ€ by Jon Marans at The Barrow Group Theater, is a fairly well-reviewed play about Harry Hays and the founding of the 1950’s gay rights organization The Mattachine Society, with a cast that includes Michael Urie of Ugly Betty as fashion designer Rudi Gernreich. It will reopen on June 10th for a four-week run at TBG Theater, 312 West 36 Street. The title of the play was one of the euphemisms for what is now called the lgbt community, sometimes the lgbtq community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning).
The title â€œNext Fallâ€ is a pun; it was originally going to be called â€œThe Gospel According to Adam,â€ and it tells the story of the relationship between Adam, a wise-cracking atheist, and Luke, a younger man and a committed Christian. Written by Geoffrey Nauffts, the artistic director of the Naked Angels theater company, it has some prominent backers: Among the donors listed as having contributed $5,000 are Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, Elton John and David Furnish, Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor Stiller, and David Schwimmer (all, not coincidentally, collaborators with Nauffts on other projects.)
Adam and Luke meet cute â€“ Luke (Patrick Heusinger, best known from TV’s “Gossip Girl”), an aspiring actor and cater-waiter, executes the Heimlich maneuver on a choking Adam (Patrick Breen of Off-Broadway’s “Fuddy Meers” and Broadway’s “Big River”) an older candle salesman who has given up his aspirations to be a writer â€“ and begin a relationship that lasts five years, until tragedy strikes. Nearly from the beginning, the main tension between the two is religion: Adam is disturbed that Luke sees their relationship as a sin, and he frequently launches into rants (sometimes comic, sometimes thought-provoking) about the logical inconsistencies of religious attitudes towards homosexuality.
â€œNext Fallâ€ is playing through June 21st. During the run, there will be discussions after the performance organized by the LGBT Center and The Hetrick-Martin Institute, home of the Harvey Milk High School, featuring such gay activists as David Mixner (friend of President Bill Clinton) and Charles O’Byrne (aide to Governor David Patterson).