Terrence McNally’s expansive new gay dramedy “Some Men” is, by any reasonable measure, a resounding success. I mean, it is what it is: A theatrical revue of moments in 20th century gay history—tied together by a handful of recurring characters—as seen from a distinctly white middle class perspective (working class and black men are generally viewed in terms of their relationships with a middle-class white man). A sexually vanilla perspective at that: Any time anybody mentions anything remotely kinky, somebody grimaces.
Taking it on its own terms, though, it succeeds gorgeously; it makes a strong case that the culture of these titular men has a richness and profound humanity all its own. In books this is a tale that has been told more and more often, notably in John Chauncey’s superb “Gay New York.” However, the history of the gay mainstream has probably never had a fuller telling on-stage than here, with a supremely talented cast that more than “gets it.”
“Some Men” also excels at finding a fresh angle for familiar stories. We see the Stonewall rebellion from a piano bar across the avenue; we hear about Lorenz Hart’s queerness from his black lover performing on a Harlem stage.
Best of all, though, “Some Men” captures the sheer joy of being gay, of gay men ceaselessly singing and dancing meaning into their lives. One of the most affecting moments features a young queerling in 2007 losing himself dancing to Madonna’s “Like A Prayer” on his iPod. It may sound a bit clichéd, but McNally’s great success is in the way he frames it—we feel not only his celebration, but also the road that brought him there.