(Continuing to hear about two plays: Michael Feingold's article on 'The Temperamentals' and 'Next Fall'; his reviews appeared June 23rd 2009 in The Village Voice.)
In The Temperamentals and Next Fall, Same-Sex Couples Refight Old Battles
Data informs; memories burn. Taken together, the two equal history, the sense we make of the past. Neither supplies the whole truth. Time rewrites memories; historians assemble data to suit their own ideas. Either way, a telling fact can be omitted. After the world has changed irrevocably, imagining the past becomes a giant challenge, in the service of which the cold data and the burning memories have to work hand in hand. No one would call the process easy: History and memory make an ungainly, awkward, argumentative duo.
Gay history, with more than half of its story hidden in shadow, ranks among the hardest sectors to imagine. Gays born in the last three decades can hardly conceive what being gay before Stonewall involved. Even the word itself was once only part of a private code. In more public circumstances, gay men were "sensitive," "artistic," or, as in the title of Jon Marans's new history play, "temperamental."
The Temperamentals (TBG Theater 2) narrates the few intense years (roughly 1950–53) in which Harry Hay (Thomas Jay Ryan), one of the gay-rights movement's forefathers, launched and ultimately removed himself from the Mattachine Society, a quirky organization that helped pave the way for the movement's explosive expansion after Stonewall. In Marans's recounting, Hay found the inner strength to build such an organization through his love affair with the couturier (then a novice Hollywood costume designer) Rudi Gernreich (Michael Urie). A Viennese émigré, much of whose family had died in the Holocaust, Gernreich combined a European frankness of outlook with a "Continental" charm that, as Marans tells it, could usefully offset Hay's sometimes blunt manner with the risky Society's potential recruits.
Web site for The Temperamentals: http://thetemperamentals.com/home/
Web site for Next Fall: http://www.nakedangels.com/nextfall/