Broadway was changed in 1983, as Albin and Georges shared a kiss and walked into the sunset in the musical La Cage aux Folles. This musical was taboo for its time, not only for the drag performers it featured, but there has never been a romance between two men on a Broadway stage quite like what La Cage accomplished. Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein helped pave the way for gay stories to be told in the theater, but thirty years later, where are we now?
As gay culture has become more ingrained in American pop culture, we are now seeing more complex stories being told across mediums for the LGBTQ+ community. This season has been no different on Broadway and Off-Broadway. We have seen plays this year that go deeper into gay men’s relationships, focusing on topics such as dating, longevity, and aging.
Lindsay Mendez and Gideon Glick in Significant Other by Joshua Harmon
Joshua Harmon’s play Significant Other moved from Roundabout Theatre Company in 2015 to the Booth Theater on Broadway this spring. The play surrounds Jordan, a gay man, who sees his college friends Kiki, Vanessa, and Laura getting engaged. While this play looks at a single gay man navigating the dating pool, Harmon went further. Significant Other looks at a generation approaching our late 20s, as we reexamine our current lives and question what we want in the future. This play looks at dating in the 21st century, gay and
straight, and doesn’t make judgement on what paths we take.
Moving Off-Broadway, playwright Jordan Seavey presented his new play Homos, or Everyone in America at the Labyrinth Theatre Company, starring Michael Urie and Robin De Jesús. Two men, The Writer and The Academic, meet at a wine bar and spark a loving, yet complicated relationship. This play bounces back and forth through a non-linear journey of their relationship; with touching moments, arguments, and discussions on various hot-button issues. These debates reflect many issues within the gay community today; including marriage equality, monogamy, and sex. Seavey is not afraid to shy away from certain issues, but also examines what makes these two lovers human, bringing two intellectuals into a very typical love affair.
Michael Urie and Robin De Jesús in Homos, or Everyone in America by Jordan Seavey.
The Public Theater presented not only a new play by Martin Sherman, but the return to the stage of Harvey Fierstein. In Gently Down the Stream, Beau meets Rufus through online dating, and their relationship grows into something Beau never expected. Sherman examines the generational gap between Beau, a much older pianist, and Rufus, a young lawyer and an optimist. Beau has his hesitations about falling in head first, but Rufus teaches Beau that everyone deserves to be happy and find love again. Beau teaches the audience a lot about gay history, where the community has come, but also ushers in a new conversation about love knowing no boundaries.
Gabriel Ebert and Harvey Fierstein in Gently Down the Stream by Martin Sherman.
It’s fascinating to see theatre changing, from Harvey Fierstein writing La Cage aux Folles, to thirty years later, starring in Gently Down the Stream. However, when it comes to creating stories for gay men, playwrights must remember principals introduced to us in La Cage: it’s about two people being in love and representation in the theater is everything.
Right now, we are exploring more complex themes of gay relationships, and we still have a lot of ground to cover, but it’s important to see that we are moving in the right direction.