Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

The Shows Must Go On: Laugh? Cry? Sing? Plays and Musicals Created by Gay and Lesbian Theater Artists Offer All Options in the Coming Months, from Bea Arthur to Stephen Sondheim, from Coast to Coast. (Theater)

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

The Shows Must Go On: Laugh? Cry? Sing? Plays and Musicals Created by Gay and Lesbian Theater Artists Offer All Options in the Coming Months, from Bea Arthur to Stephen Sondheim, from Coast to Coast. (Theater)

Article excerpt

Despite the economic downturn and a conservative federal government--both of which make it tougher than ever to produce daring or culturally diverse arts projects--gay and lesbian theater artists across the nation are as productive as ever. "Sexual minoritarians are the life's blood of the American theater," says Tony Kushner, whose timely examination of Afghanistan and its effect on us, Homebody/Kabul, continues its premiere run in New York and heads to Rhode Island's Trinity Repertory Company in March and the Berkeley, Calif., Repertory Theatre in April. "I suspect the real reason we are so busy producing work is, we want to make John Simon even more wretched and miserable and frightened than he already is," Kushner continues, relishing the opportunity to take a shot at the notoriously homophobic New York theater critic. "This is a laudable goal."

Among Simon's recent targets has been out playwright Edward Albee, who will follow up last year's The Play About the Baby with back-to-back premieres in New York this spring. Opening off-Broadway in February, Occupant stars Anne Bancroft in a portrait of the sculptor Louise Nevelson. In The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?--which opens in March on Broadway--Albee provocatively explores family dynamics once again. Meanwhile, the recent trend of Albee revivals continues with a Princeton, N.J., production of All Over in February and a Hartford, Conn., staging of Seascape in May.

At the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., another openly gay theater great, Stephen Sondheim, is being honored with the Sondheim Celebration beginning in May, comprising Sweeney Todd, Company, Sunday in the Park With George, Merrily We Roll Along, Passion, and A Little Night Music. As if to preface that festival, a revival of Into the Woods is playing in Los Angeles through March on its way to Broadway in April.

This season several gay and lesbian theater artists have turned to real-life characters for inspiration. Playwright Richard Greenberg's The Dazzle, about the eccentric Collyer brothers, runs off-Broadway through May, followed by a different production of the play in Chicago. In February, Alan Alda will star in QED, Peter Parnell's play about real-life physicist Richard Feynman; and lesbian director Anne Bogart will debut Room in San Francisco, drawing from the writings of Virginia Woolf. Room opens in New York in May.

Playwright Tom Donaghy describes his new play, Boys and Girls (opening in New York in May), as being about "a couple of fags and dykes who almost destroy each other in the name of love and family." By way of explaining his choice of words, he adds, "The play is a little bit of personal anthropology."

Another out writer with new work is Craig Lucas (Longtime Companion), whose This Thing of Darkness, written with David Schulner, opens in New York in May. The play is about two 22-year-old male college friends who share a birthday and, Lucas says, "in an unanticipated moment, share a rather dreamlike, even nightmare-like, vision of what the future holds."

With a nightmare-like past immediately behind them, what does Lucas think New York audiences need out of their theater experience? "There should be room for anything and everything," he says, "Either a work of art was valid, coherent, and meaningful before the bombings, in which case it should remain so, or it wasn't then and it won't be now. …

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