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Arts & Entertainment
Some Men at the Second Stage Theater
By Mark Thompson & Robert Doyle
March 17, 2007 
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Terence McNally’s Some Men (which received its world premiere in Philadelphia nearly a year ago) might be considered the Cliff Notes version of gay American history as lived during the past eighty years. Unlike August Wilson’s ten-play oeuvre about the African-American experience in the United States in which Wilson gave each decade its own play, McNally neatly sums up the American gay male’s history in little more than two hours. Pithy, we’ve always been—less known for our oral folklore than our snappy one-liners.

Writing in almost a playwright shorthand, or perhaps more accurately, a kind of dramatic haiku, McNally distills the essence of each decade into a brief scene. Hitting our high points and lows, there’s a scene from the Harlem Renaissance and another scene (beautifully delineating the differences within the gay community) set during the night of the Stonewall riots—as well as scenes played out on an AIDS ward, and another in an Internet chat room, and a couple of scenes, separated by decades, taking place along the beach at the Hamptons.

The nine-member cast, nimbly directed by Trip Cullman, shifts from decade to decade and character to character, in a kind of roundelay, with most of the characters connected to each other through a series of chance encounters over the years. Arguably stereotypical—the drag queen, the show queens, the hustler, the closeted soldier, the married gay—each clichÈ is given fresh life by a cast of experienced performers, particularly Michael McElroy in his depiction of Angel Eyes, a Harlem Renaissance club owner and friend of Bricktop, who opens the second act and brings down the house with his rendition of “Ten Cents a Dance.”

According to production notes, music was the seed for Some Men, which was, at one point, a series of scenes set to songs most often associated with the gay American male. Mercifully, in the current incarnation, “It’s Raining Men” has been cut—though “Over the Rainbow” remains, a song which, in spite of itself and after nearly seventy years of overuse, becomes (as sung by David Greenspan) the centerpiece for one of the most touching scenes of the entire piece.

That’s the beauty of Some Men—just when you think you don’t need or want another play, another scene, about gay men in America, McNally reminds you how far we’ve traveled and how many obstacles we’ve overcome, and why we deserve to celebrate our history. As one elderly gay pair states, the heroes in our journey have not been our stage divas and screen legends so much as each other and all of us.