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The Nance

I started this last week, but it's still pretty much accurate--including not quite being unpacked.  The piano's gone, however, and I now have 25 square feet of living room space I didn't have before, which is a good thing.  Anyway, finishing it now, and hoping to Be More Timely in the Future.  (Ha!)

Back in New York after a glorious 6 weeks in Roanoke, VA, teaching Studies in Genre Writing: Fantasy in the Hollins Children's Literature MA Program.  We are almost unpacked, absolutely disorganized, I'm behind on many deadlines, and inclined to keep my writing time for fiction, but there's a Man With A Van coming at some unspecified hour to pick up my grandmother's unfixable baby grand piano (well, not actually unfixable, but it'll cost the earth and the fact is, I don't play the piano) and take it away to a charity that fixes and donates reasonably nice pianos (which this one is) to schools and so on. wild_irises
is in town, and we took the day off to spend with her, walking in Riverside Park, going up to Broadway to the Columbia Farmers Market and a stop at Le Monde for a little thyme/honey limeade, fetching up after some fennel/chicken/cilantro salad on Broadway, where Ellen had procured TDF tix for The Nance, with Nathan Lane, on what turns out to be one of its last nights before it closes.

Thus, a review.

Short version:  it's a good play.  It manages to be genuinely funny about a thorny and loaded subject (self-hating gay men--in this case, in 1930's New York in the declining days of burlesque) without flinching from the realities of the situation.  The writing is smart as well as clever, the music is spot-on, the costumes convincing.  The acting is remarkable, especially Broadway newcomer Jonny Orsini as the Love Interest.  And Nathan Lane, of course.  Nathan Lane is amazing.  So is Cady Huffman, who breathes statuesque life into the rather one-dimensional left-wing stripper Sylvie.

And yet.  I dunno.  I wanted to like it more than I ended up liking it.  I felt for Chauncey, I really did.  I've met men (and women) like him, so badly damaged by the loathing society has heaped on them that they can't help but pass that damage on.  It's not a particularly nuanced portrait, but a musical is not a particularly nuanced art form, and (perhaps more to the point) Lane isn't a particularly nuanced actor. Thing was, I just couldn't see why the sweet semi-innocent Ned, who'd left his young wife because he thought she deserved a man who could love her the way she needed to be loved, saw to love in Chauncey.  And since their relationship is the heart of the play (as opposed to its political plot, which, as far as I can tell, exists to give the other characters something to do), this was a real problem.

Plus, the girls didn't really have much to do but throw their pasties and their gum-chewing accents around.  But that's
show business on Broadway these days.  You have to go Off to see interesting women doing interesting things these days.

Still, there were lovely moments, quite a lot of very funny low comedy, and the decor was splendid.  We had a wonderful time deconstructing it afterwards, and I only wish I could remember half the smart things we said, so I could transcribe them here.  But that's what happens when I put off writing a review until I have time.



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 17th, 2013 04:09 pm (UTC)
Oh, that does sound like fun. Off-Broadway comedies, written by (and or starring) interesting women. Now that is something I need to explore.
Aug. 18th, 2013 01:11 pm (UTC)
We talked about whether or not the ending was inevitable, and how set in his ways Chauncey was or had to be. EK raved about the second male lead.

For myself, the more I think about the show, the more I liked the first act better than the second, because the first (as you said at intermission) was open-ended and could go either way, but the second was more stereotypical and predictable.

I would give the women characters a little more credit than you do; I think the communist woman could have been more developed politically, but she was still more than just pasties and performing. On the other hand, this article is relevant to the whole question of women characters, and McDougall's points can be applied to The Nance for sure.
Aug. 18th, 2013 03:33 pm (UTC)
You are so right about that article, which I read yesterday and loved. There will always be people who write complicated, nuanced, thorny, active, ambiguous female characters (my own dear wife among them), but they are not necessarily going to be the people who make the cover of The New York Times Sunday Book Review or the best seller lists. Because popular culture tends to self-perpetuate, as all powerful systems do, and change course v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, if at all.

Yet, Ellen and I watched She Done Him Wrong last night, and Mae West sure had the complicated and full of agency female down pat. Outside of the lush curves and the diamonds, Lou functions more as a man than a woman in that movie, and a criminal at that, self-centered and single-minded, in quest of diamonds, physical satisfaction, and respect. She is neither more nor less a victim of society than the men who desire and want to own her, and neither more nor less admirable in her actions than they are. Not to say that She Done Him Wrong is exactly a good movie, or feminist, or socially enlightened (the black maid and the Jewish peddler are both pretty hair-raising, not to mention the Russian gigolo). But it is an interesting movie, in just this context.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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