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Catching Up With THE BOYS IN THE BAND
Posted by: JereNYC (JereNYC@aol.com) 03:14 pm EDT 10/05/20

I was finally able to get to the new Netflix version of the THE BOYS IN THE BAND over the weekend and, although I saw the production on Broadway, I was really struck by how little exposition Mart Crowley provides in the text. We have almost no idea of how this group of people know each other or birthday boy Harold. I found that really interesting, given that one of the themes of the piece seems to be about chosen family. We are told that Michael and Alan were college roommates, and that Michael and Donald met hooking up at a bar. We know that Hank and Larry are a couple and hear that they met at a party, and that Larry and Donald once met randomly and hooked up, but...that's it, right? (Of course, Cowboy doesn't know any of them, due to the nature of why he's even at the party.) We don't even know how ANY of them, including Michael, knows Harold, whose birthday it is. Not even the presence of two relative strangers in the room (Alan and Cowboy) leads to a round of "And how did you meet so-and-so."

Clearly, it's not really important, but it made me think of how spare and compact the writing actually is. We know almost nothing about these people, and yet the drama that plays out among them is so riveting. Why do we care so much about the trials and tribulations of people that are strangers to us and about whom we know about as much at the end of the play as we did at the beginning? It's really fascinating.

I really liked the short bits at the beginning and end that show us these characters immediately before and after the party. It's almost like an acting exercise where one is asked to imagine the moment before and the moment after. Does anyone have any insight into why we see Michael, after leaving the midnight church service, breaking into a run as he heads down the street away from the camera?

Also...totally loved Michael's apartment. I know we hear that Michael is in debt and is living beyond his means, but does anyone have an idea of what that apartment would have cost in 1969? Depending on the neighborhood, it would probably sell for, at least, $2M today. Rental today? Probably, at least, $5-6K, right? I know real estate at the time wasn't as insane as it is now. One thing that I found not terribly realistic is that absolutely no one comments on how great this duplex apartment with a large terrace is or asks/speculates about what Michael pays for it, not even Cowboy, who is probably the only one visiting for the first time. This is New York's favorite game and this city is probably the only place where it's not considered rude to ask such questions. Maybe that's only been a thing in more recent decades.
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