By Dan Fingerman; Directed by Dan Dinero
Presented by Willow Theatricals
Off Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 2.25.17
Theaterlab, 357 West 36th Street
by Elizabeth Kipp-Giusti on 2.13.17
Joseph J. Menino and R. Scott Williams in Boys of a Certain Age. Photo by Hunter Canning.
BOTTOM LINE: With Donna Summer music and candid political discussions, Boys of a Certain Age is a passionate play that both memorializes the past and explores the future of what it means to be a gay man in America.
Ira is an old queen. He’ll tell you so himself, with a raised eyebrow and cocked hip made jauntier by his use of a cane. Larry, on the other hand, moves through the world with the cowed mannerisms of an introvert. After the death of his wife, he has come out as gay in later life. Longtime friends from Hebrew school, these two men have reunited at Ira’s beach house with Ira’s nephew and Larry’s son in tow—both also gay. In Dan Fingerman’s Boys of a Certain Age, the four men crash like waves on the sand, softening each other’s edges even as they are dragged into the undertow.
Directed by Dan Dinero (who serves as Editor in Chief of Theatre is Easy, but had no part in this review), Boys of a Certain Age is an intelligent and nuanced exploration of the generational divide among gay men who have navigated their identities in distinctly different ways. The two older men came of age in the 1960s and 70s, a period of intense homophobia, club culture, and the start of the AIDS crisis. Ira (a delightful R. Scott Williams) was entrenched in that world after having been kicked out of his home at twenty. His old friend Larry (the poignant and patient Joseph J. Menino) saw Ira’s flamboyance and ran instead towards marriage to a woman, had two children, and established a long career as a quiet school principal. Each man has brought younger progeny to the weekend reunion: Christopher (Brian Gligor), Ira’s conservative “straight-presenting” nephew, and Bryan (a snarling Marc Sinoway), Larry’s rebellious socialist son.
The cast is talented, each navigating their characters with a confidence that suggests each feels that they know best. Williams and Menino treat each other with a convincing tenderness tinged with resentment—their kind of friendship hasn’t necessarily been easy. In fact, none of these men find it particularly easy to be in each other’s company, though there is a deep sense of love in the group. Gligor’s Christopher is self-assured, a macho guy who likes to watch college basketball and wears an activity-tracking watch to keep fit. In contrast, Bryan is entrenched in the language of gender theory, rejecting heteronormative values and viewing his queerness as an essential part of his identity. They are immediately at odds with one another, jagged barbs thrown between them aimed at the jugular. Without giving too much away, a compelling surprise later emerges about their shared history.
But, in truth, all these men share history. Dan Fingerman’s script is intellectual and cuttingly sharp, moving beyond drawing simple parallels of experience between gay elders and youth and exploring what it means to love your family, how personal politics become complicated when entwined with nationalism, and how life’s journey can be different than we expect. It is not, it should be said, a wholly perfect script—the show begins to lose focus towards the end, and there is a particularly awkward scene between Bryan and Christopher that feels out of place with the rest of the play. However, both Fingerman and director Dinero should be applauded for the space they make for thoughtful political dialogue. Boys of a Certain Age subtly illustrates how all four men fall on the spectrum of liberalism and conservatism. When it is revealed that Christopher is a Log Cabin Republican, who indeed voted for Trump, emotions run high. As uncomfortable as it is to hear it, Christopher is given space to defend his position, and though no resolution is reached, it is a reminder that—at least among family—we must aim to listen with compassion.
Though Boys of a Certain Age only has four cast members, it is a crowded stage. Smartly designed by Joe Burkard with pastel lighting by Scott Nelson, the evocative beach house setting feels ready to be filled with friends and family. Instead, the ghosts of those who did not survive the violence of homophobia and the agony of the AIDS crisis share the space, memorialized in Ira’s stories of his youth. Similarly, in the interludes of scenes vacillating between funny and earnest, we hear the sound of waves; time presses on. In the light of our uncertain political moment, Boys of a Certain Age honors these lives with a promise that the fight—in all its complicated manifestations—continues.
(Boys of a Certain Age plays at Theaterlab, 357 West 36th Street, 3rd Floor, through February 25, 2017. The running time is one hour and thirty minutes with no intermission. Performances are Thursdays at 7:30; Fridays at 8; Saturdays at 2 and 8; and Sundays at 3. There is a 7:30 performance on Wednesday 2/22. Tickets are $25 and are available at boysofacertainage.com or by calling 866-811-4111.)
Boys of a Certain Age is written by Dan Fingerman. Directed by Dan Dinero. Scenic Design is by Joe Burkard. Lighting Design is by Scott Nelson. Stage Manager is Will Jennings.
The cast is Brian Gligor, Joseph J. Menino, Marc Sinoway, and R. Scott Williams.