BY JOHN FLEMING
Times Performing Arts Critic
With Gay Pride being celebrated this month, bay area theatergoers have several works to choose from in marking the occasion. They range from The Boys in the Band, Mart Crowley's 1968 play that was the first commercially successful gay play (and movie) to a new comedy about a lesbian relationship, Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England by Madeleine George.
For the 11th year, the Suncoast AIDS Theatre Project is presenting its "Prelude to Pride," with a spoof of Gone With the Wind called Blown By the Wind, adapted by T. Scott Wooten and featuring popular local actors such as Matthew McGee (as Scarlett O'Hara), Sharon Scott, Joey Panek, Joe Parra and Betty Jane Parks. Michael Raabe supplies music from the keyboard.
With two performances, it is a benefit for PWA (People With AIDS) programs at Metropolitan Charities of Pinellas. Panels from an AIDS quilt will be displayed.
"The memories of people who have died from HIV/AIDS are always present on stage," said Garry Allan Breul, founder and artistic director of the project. "If these folks were alive today, they'd be here."
Everyone involved donates their services. "There really are no people like show people," Breul said. "The actors never turn me down, and they never ask me for a check."
The project has done its share of gay classics, but Breul has learned that the biggest crowds turn out for lighter fare. "Personally, I like the more serious gay plays that we have done, like The Normal Heart or Radiant Child, but these fun shows do well for Pride," he said. "Last year our Wizard of Oz show sold out three performances and we raised about $3,000."
The Boys in the Band opened last weekend at West Coast Players, a community theater in Clearwater, and director Tom Costello's production gets the job done in establishing a witty, brittle camaraderie among the guys who gather for a birthday party. Mark Myers, playing Michael, the party's host, has the camp Barbara Stanwyck and Victor Mature quips down pat, and Costello has a persuasive turn as Donald, the droll bookworm with a "neurotic compulsion not to succeed."
Crowley's play is a brilliant portrayal of pre-liberation gay culture, but the second act spirals downward into self-hating psychodrama. "You show me a happy homosexual and I'll show you a gay corpse," Michael declares in his famous line before leaving the party in shambles and heading off to midnight Mass.
Seven Homeless Mammoths stars Martha Wilkinson as Cindy Wreen, dean of a liberal arts college, as she tries to juggle her relationship with her new girlfriend, a yoga instructor half her age named Andromeda (Stefanie Clouse), and her former longtime partner, Greer (Kim Crow), a philosophy professor with cancer. Though George's play can get a bit longwinded, Wilkinson keeps things bubbling right along as she deftly treads the line between screwball comedy and passionate, playful sexuality.
Actor and drag performer Matthew McGee (see Blown By the Wind) and Scott Daniel, a wig and costume designer, take the camp route in The Scott & Patti Show at Freefall Theatre. It's a lounge act, they say, that is "a combination of Auntie Mame, RuPaul's Drag Race and The Gong Show." Proceeds go to Freefall and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
At the Florida Dance Festival, the San Francisco-based Sean Dorsey Dance will perform The Secret History of Love. It is based on a two-year LGBT Elders Oral History Project that explored the ways transgender and gay people found love in the 1920s.
John Fleming can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716.