The Fourth Annual Midtown International Theatre Festival - August 3, 2003
Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex, NYC

Review for StoneWall Society by ROBERT URBAN
I was lucky to catch the final performance of this charming & lively "little  slice-of-life" play.  Although show time was at the ungodly hour of 11am, I  found the cast chipper, the house sold out, the audience wide-awake, and the  theater blessedly air-conditioned.  This comedy-drama looks at the lives and loves of five men sharing the chorus  dressing room of a new Broadway musical.

As theater denizens know, the male chorus dressing room is a cramped space  where young gay & straight men share close quarters, and, (contrary to current  U.S. military doctrine) come to no harm from the experience.  In fact, all  involved may actually benefit, learn & grow. It is a nexus of intense personal  bonding created via the many pressures 

Cast of "Just Us Boys"
Cast of "Just Us Boys"

involved in sharing a b'way musical show's  run. It is a place where many long-term friendships & relationships are  forged.  It harbors both triumphs and tragedies... loves and hates.... Hey - it's  like.... LIFE!

Most of the story in JUST US BOYS unfolds while the chorus guys hurriedly  change clothes - either just before, just after, or just in between scenes of the  play they are in.  There's always a "five minutes!" call heard offstage to  keep things moving.  Thankfully, none of the  continuous gym-body-in-underwear  exposure is gratuitous - in fact, the effect of the constant  taking-off/putting-on of clothes is symbolic of the "naked" emotions being revealed and/or  covered up in the players' lives.   Furthermore - the rushed backstage atmosphere  makes for a lot of great "Freudian-slips" (Including lots of fun tacky ones!)
between the cast that also help reveal the underside of everyone's character.

Deep down in the dressing-room-womb/id of the playhouse, where there are no  secrets...  where everyone shares in each others comedies & tragedies - this  "play within a play" progresses. The chorus boy/men work thru the play's  rehearsals, opening night and ultimate successful run. They struggle thru numerous  "gay" relationship/romance issues & situations (and a few theatrical/professional ones) - e.g. - Is the new guy gay or straight?... gay/straight friendships... Is my lover at home cheating on me?... "coming out"... relationships between older and younger men... "stage fright"... growing too old to be a
chorus boy... etc.

The above may sound superficial and/or stereotypical of gays, but they are presented with refreshing down-to-earth believability, sincerity & humor. This could only come about thru a successful collaboration & dynamic between playwright, director & cast.  No small achievement.

Regardless of the emotional roller-coaster ride JUST US BOYS puts both cast and audience thru - it manages to take the noble theatrical route all the way to it's finale - which is classic "The Show Must Go On!"

The colorful cast of archetypical chorus boys in JUST US BOYS is played by:

Mike, Emanuele Ancorini and Anthony, James Blanchard in "Just US Boys"
Emanuele Ancorini as Mike with 
James Blanchard as Anthony
EMANUELE ANCORINI plays "Mike" - the handsome young "swing" understudy who's new to theater, wracked with stage-fright, and just emerging from the closet. Two daunting rites of passage lay before him - one to a stage career and one to come "out" sexually. Mr. Anchorini's characterization of a man caught in the moment between straight & gay self-consciousness - a study in both self-denial and innocence - was right on the money.

JAMES BLANCHARD plays "Anthony" - the play's main-character/hero.... a  dance-captain-of-a-certain age, who's loved and lost so many times he's afraid to take the plunge again... but risks taking a chance once more with newcomer "Mike".  Mr. Blanchard offered a sensitive portrayal of a man faced with difficult emotional & professional crises.  His scene where he breaks down and weeps over his own sense of romantic failure in life was most moving.

JARROD CAFARO plays "Joey" - the play's "Eve Evil" (hey - every chorus room has one!). Young, tart, twinky-clone-gay and ever-bragging about his string of sugar-daddy-stage-door-johnnies, Joey provides much of the play's comedic relief with his many grenade-tossed bon-mots (which he hurls without mercy at all around him).  It is a credit to Mr. Carofo's witty & intelligent take on such a generic "gay" type stage-character that we actually experience depth, humanity and inner-workings in what otherwise might be just a  typical "gay" role of one-liners.

ALEXANDER KOLTCHAK plays "Sam" - Ah... the chorus room's token straight guy, the exceptional, well balanced, non-phobic hetero man who can actually buddy-up and work with a roomful of gays.  In a role that might draw awkward
attention to itself if not played just right, Mr. Koltchak was a joy to behold - his acting never forced or patronizing.

BRAD THOMPSON plays "Peter" - the oldest "boy" in the chorus... a "professional" b'way gypsy type - and JUST US BOYS' one-man-greek chorus of sorts.  Part den-mother... part confidant... and part therapist for the rest of the cast, the audience processes much of the play thru Peter's world-weary, all-knowing, "been-there-done-that" persona.  Mr. Thompson was all that and more - bringing additional humor, vulnerability and a welcome silliness & lightness to the part.  He made Peter more than just a shoulder to cry on.

MAC HARDCASTLE plays "Ray" - This talented character actor performs dual roles in JUST US BOYS.  Before the opening curtain he's a stuttering, simpleton stage-hand, sweeping the stage and improvising small talk with the audience as  they are seated.  But Mr. Hardcastle really shines as the off-stage voice of the uber-queenie assistant stage manager, who calls out the curtain-times and rehearsal schedules, etc., thru an intercom to the actors onstage.  This interesting invisible role is actually... dare I say it... the "god" character of "JUST US BOYS".  It is the deus-ex-machina voice from which all onstage
action springs to life and follows.  Mr. Hardcastle's crisp & lisping voiceover characterization consistently produced the show's best laughs.

"JUST US BOYS" is part The Fourth Annual Midtown International Theatre Festival (www.midtownfestival.org)
Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex
312 W. 36th St. New York City
July 14-August 3, 2003

Review for StoneWall Society

Award winning rock musician Robert Urban
by Robert Urban