The boys on stage 

The Boys in the Band
The Men from the Boys

Theatre on the Square
Through Feb. 18

Theatre on the Square is presenting, in repertory, Matt Crowley’s The Boys in the Band and its sequel, The Men from the Boys. Groundbreaking when it came out in 1968, The Boys in the Band (and the sequel) examines the dynamics of a group of gay friends.

The Boys in the Band, while dealing with (as of now) timeless issues regarding being gay — mostly its acceptance, by the person who is gay and those around him (or her, though this show deals only with men) — isn’t exactly revelatory anymore. It has a distinct been-there-done-that feel for audiences in 2007. Since just seeing gay characters on stage isn’t a big deal now, the show comes across as just a bunch of queens sniping at each other.

And snipe they do. The combination of bitter, angry exchanges and the stereotypical characters make for some funny scenes.

As for The Men from the Boys, which revisits the characters 26 years later, Crowley tries too hard to make the play relevant, stuffing it full of every current gay issue possible. And it’s not as funny.

Though director Ron Spencer’s cast still has smoothing out to do, they have to be given a huge amount of credit: Most of them are doing both shows, which meant learning the lines, blocking, etc. for two shows at the same time.

Dannon Crews plays Michael, the most vitriolic character in a sullen crowd. His lead performance anchors both shows. But most consistently entertaining is Doug Messinger: He gets the role of the wildly flamboyant and chipper Emory. Thom Turner, as Harold, while still flashing his very gay card, imbues his performance with something subtly resembling danger. Robert Webster Jr., as the straight man in Men from the Boys, conveys an appropriate mixture of confusion, repulsion and anger. Justin Ivan Brown has to switch gears entirely, from the trick-heavy Larry in Boys in the Band to a PC-issues-pusher in Men from the Boys.

Many more in the cast get their moments, but even with these standouts, the show still hinges on being an ensemble work, as the nine men on stage revolve around each other, touching for a moment and then moving on.

Dated costuming for Boys in the Band is hysterical, and the set, by designers Spencer and James Trofatter, is one of the best-looking TOTS has had.

The Boys in the Band and The Men from the Boys continue through Feb. 18, Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m. on alternate days. Tickets are $25. Call TOTS, 627 Massachusetts Ave., at 317-685-TOTS for reservations. n

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