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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Pride Films and Plays' Some Men is a gay history lesson worth seeing



My favorite scene in Terrence McNally's play, Some Men, takes place in a Greenwich Village piano bar in 1969 as a middle-aged couple, Alex and Joel, enjoy a few show tunes and cocktails. Across the street the Stonewall riots are going on, which has piqued their curiosity - and perhaps they might check out this demonstration on their way home. Then Archie, a transvestite - dressed like a suburban matron with a mouth like a sailor - enters the bar where he is quickly befriended by Joel. I enjoyed getting to know these three characters in Pride Films and Plays' current Chicago premiere of the play - and I could have easily spent more time just listening to their amusing, sad conversations. But Some Men is about many other men as McNally explores our evolving gay history over the past 80+ years. It's an interesting trip worth taking, and co-directors David Zak and Derek Van Barham do a good job with their production of seamlessly moving from a Harlem nightclub in 1932 to a gay bathhouse in 1975 and then to an AIDs hospital ward in 1989. There isn't much of a set for the twelve different locations, but the exceptionally talented cast work wonders with only a few chairs, a small table and a piano.

All of the men in Pride Films and Plays' production deliver fine performances, including Robert Ayres, Ben Burke, Sam Button-Harrison, Jude Hansen, Nelson Rodriguez and Jeremy Sonkin. Edward Fraim is quite memorable as Bernie, a closeted married advertising executive in 1968 whose coming-out story is a through line in the play, while David Besky nearly steals the show in his one scene as the "dragtastic" Archie. And Tom Chiola and Patrick Rybarczyk are simply wonderful as Alex and Joel as well as another couple, Aaron and Scoop, whose long-term relationship becomes the subject of an interview by two young students.

Most of the gay history presented in Some Men is already quite familiar from other films, plays and TV shows, but that doesn't mean it isn't still relevant today - especially marriage equality. The first and final scenes both take place at a contemporary gay wedding, which highlights the fact that we have come a long way. However, our journey is not over yet - but hopefully someday soon we will be able to raise our cocktails in celebration of a wedding of "some men" (and women) in all 50 states.

Pride Films and Plays' Some Men runs through September 13 at Rivendell Theater (5779 N. Ridge). Tickets may be purchased at www.brownpapertickets.com, and for more information, visit www.pridefilmsandplays.com.

Photo by Alexa Ray Meyers.

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