Boys in the Band

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A: Mart Crowley Pf: 1968, New York Pb: 1968 G: Com. in 2 acts S: New York apartment, 1960s C: 9mMichael has invited five homosexual friends to a birthday party for Harold, an intelligent Jew of 32 with a liking for drugs. The guests are: Emory, a blatantly camp character; Hank and Larry, a homosexual couple, who came together after Hank left his wife and children; Donald, who, like Michael, is seeing a psychiatrist; and Bernard, a tall black. Harold's main present is a night with a handsome blond male prostitute, Cowboy. As everyone gets drunk, bitchy comments are made, the men addressing one another as ‘she’ and discussing gay icons like Judy Garland. Michael, who has stayed off alcohol for five weeks, now gets drunk and very abusive, especially towards the taciturn Cowboy. Matters are made worse by the unexpected arrival of Alan, a room-mate of Michael when they were at college together. Alan, who has quarrelled with his wife, has no idea that his friend – or any of the guests – are homosexuals, although he takes offence at the ‘freakish’ behaviour of Emory. As Alan begins to recognize the truth, Michael suggests that everyone should phone the person they most love, hoping that this will expose Alan's latent homosexuality. This fails, the party is ruined, and Michael's final words are: ‘I don't understand any of it. I never did.’

A: Mart Crowley Pf: 1968, New York Pb: 1968 G: Com. in 2 acts S: New York apartment, 1960s C: 9m

Although of no great dramatic merit (Crowley wrote no other successful plays), Boys in the Band caused a stir on Off-Broadway, ensuring it 1,000 performances. Joe Cino (from 1960) and Charles Ludlam (from 1967) had staged gay plays in their clubs, but Crowley's play was the first opportunity for mainstream heterosexual audiences to witness overt homosexual interaction on stage, which unfortunately tended to reinforce a stereotype of frustrated bitchiness in the gay community.

Subjects: Theatre — Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).

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