Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Last Sunday in June"

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note: entire contents copyright 2004 by Carl A. Rossi


by Jonathan Tolins
directed by Scott Edmiston

Michael … Trey Burvant
Tom … Tom Lawlor
Joe … Jeremy Johnson
Charles … Larry Coen
Brad … Will McGarrahan
James … Bill Mootos
Scott … Tyler Hollinger
Susan … Tori Davis

A comparison of Jonathan Tolins’ LAST SUNDAY IN JUNE, which is closing out the SpeakEasy’s season, with its landmark predecessor Mart Crowley’s THE BOYS IN THE BAND is a lesson on how far gay drama and the urban gay lifestyle have evolved since pre-Stonewall days. Both plays deal with ghetto mind-set: Mr. Crowley’s men are crowded together in society’s closet where they camp it up, bicker and wound; Mr. Tobin’s men are out and about but are poised on a dilemma: should they now enter the mainstream or continue to keep their own company? (A recent New York Times article mentioned that Chelsea Boys are now moving to Hell’s Kitchen because their turf has been invaded by straights and baby strollers.) Mr. Crowley’s men are throwing a birthday bash for a mutual friend; in walks the host’s straight former classmate and hello, Edward Albee. Mr. Tobin’s men are in a long-term couple’s apartment on Christopher Street, looking out at the annual Gay Pride Parade held every last Sunday in June; in walks a woman --- charming, intelligent, but still a Woman --- she plans to marry one of the men who has grown tired of the gay world/lifestyle and wants out, resulting in a few ripples. Mr. Crowley slowly reveals his men to be miserable and self-loathing beneath their cocktail banter (“You show me a happy homosexual and I’ll show you a gay corpse”); Mr. Tobin’s men are definitely sunny side up --- their bitchery is affectionate; their fights are clean, not fueled by drink or drugs; Mr. Right waits where hope springs eternal; the one HIV-positive character is healthy and upbeat; even the obligatory stud has enough of a brain in his head. Yet for all its negativity, I prefer Mr. Crowley’s achievement --- it says things that needed to be said at the time and respect, respect must be paid --- Mr. Tobin’s play touches on a few of the BOYS’ topics along with more current ones and does so with warmth and good-humor while endlessly calling attention as to what makes up a Gay Play, including its own plot devices, but I’ll be damned if I can quote any of its witty lines aside from “get your needs met” which becomes the evening’s chant. Don’t get me wrong --- I enjoyed LAST SUNDAY IN JUNE but it soon vanished on me, afterwards.

What I do remember is the engaging ensemble who entertained me for an hour and forty-five minutes. Aside from Tori Davis, who is pretty, charming and most welcome, I have seen all seven men elsewhere and my pleasure was doubled at seeing what they can do when brought together. The “name” actors are on familiar turf: Bill Mootos glowers and sulks, once again; Will McGarrahan and Larry Coen effortlessly crack wise as the two faces of Eve (Arden; i.e.bright/wistful). Jeremy Johnson and Tyler Hollinger come fresh from the Mill 6 production of the all-male SHAKESPEARE’S R&J; Mr. Hollinger, who adorns the company’s posters and postcards, makes a sweet, harmless hunk; Mr. Johnson is good as the twit actor who insists he doesn’t sound like one but he was far more subtle and effective as R&J’s prune-faced Nurse where he was feminine, not effeminate. As the suburban-bound couple who suddenly learn they are not so monogamous after all, Tom Lawler, blessed with a great smile and a winning personality, is wonderfully likeable and he is well partnered with Trey Burvant, who is living proof that an actor is only as good as his director allows him to be. I first saw Mr. Burvant as one of two obnoxious clowns in A.R.T.’s bizarre LADY WITH A LAPDOG; I wanted to pummel them both into comas each time they scampered onstage. Here, under Scott Edmiston’s smooth direction (emphasis on “smooth”), Mr. Burvant is handsome, relaxed and brimming with amused condescension.

Janie E. Howland has come up with a lovely set design that cleverly incorporates the playing area’s two pillars (even the entrance into the theatre now becomes the apartment’s hallway); it’s faaaaaabulous, all right, but looks far from lived-in --- everything’s as neat and in place at curtain call as it is at the beginning. Maybe that’s why I can’t remember much: nothing really happens in LAST SUNDAY IN JUNE, unlike its dovetailing neighbor POPCORN which also had a tidy set but proved to be quite the bloodbath. Luckily for SpeakEasy that production has departed; JUNE’s happy mood might have been shattered with the recurring sound of gunshots coming through the walls --- on the other hand, it could have been shrugged off as a typical Sunday in New York.

"Last Sunday in June" (4 June-3 July)
SpeakEasy Stage Company
Boston Center for theArts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 426-ARTS

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide