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A CurtainUp Review
Some Men

We live in these little personal boxes and we break free only to find ourselves in a bigger box. I can break free for the rest of my life and still be in a box— Archie, a transvestite. When one of the show queens in the piano bar into which he's wandered during the Stonewall riots tells him that this sounds like a song cue, Archie follows suit with a rendition of "Over the Rainbow" dedicated to "every little boy or girl who grew up thinking they were meant to be somewhere else."
David Greenspan & Don Amendolia in Some Men
David Greenspan & Don Amendolia in Some Men (Photo: Joan Marcus)
Take Terrence McNally's gift for crackling with humor dialogue, add a nine actor ensemble par excellence to ensure that every line hits its mark. Stage it all fluidly and elegantly. The net result: A see-sawing journey of over a dozen scenes through the past eighty-four years (1922-2006) of gay life in America— or more specifically in Manhattan and the Hamptons.

With director Trip Cullman acting as our tour guide, Some Men is a nostalgic, enjoyable journey through the gay experience over the last eight decades, even if it can hardly be tagged as a sort of all-in-one gay version of August Wilson's powerful ten-play cycle about African-Americans. The problem is that while McNally covers a lot of ground, including gay men in the Iraq war, many of his non-chronological but neatly tied together vignettes reinforce familiar stereotypes: the Show Queens who know what diva sang what in every show. . . furtive bathhouse encounters during the anything goes days. . . mournful hospital vigils for an AIDS victim. . . more recent but no longer novel internet chatroom exchanges, images of two Daddy familes and nuptial ceremonies.

As in any play by the four-time Tony winning McNally, this catchall history lesson has its poignant as well as funny moments. It would be nice if director Cullman had figured out a way to unobrusively project the date and scene setting title included in the script, or at least included a date and scene list in the program. On the other hand, most of the viewers this play will attract won't need help to figure out the where and when of these interwoven vignettes.

Some Men has undergone some drastic changes since CurtainUp reviewed it in Philadelphia (see link below). It now has an all male cast which suits the production just fine and, I suspect, better. The mother whose son is killed in Iraq is now his father who is also a military man and the man who leaves his heteresexual marriage now has an angry confrontation with a fellow squash player and closeted married man who feels threatened by his exit from the closet.

Thanks to the role-switching agility of the actors, the diverse characters they play are differentiated enough to clarify their decade to decade connections. Don Amendolia, the only holdover from the Philadelphia premiere, expertly portrays a variety of older men and fits right in with the current ensemble.

David Greenspan, a flamboyantly distinctive actor, comes so close to stealing the show that I'm tempted to go to my file of retired cliche phrases to describe his performance as one that is good enough to be "worth the price of admission." Greenspan sends the play's electric wattage into high gear whenever he's in the spotlight. A scene which finds Amendolia's Aaron and Greenspan's Scoop, two long-time partners, sitting on a Washington Square park bench while being interviewed by two cross-gender studies Vassar students is one of the play's more emotionally resonant comic highlights with its focus on the generational divide. As Scoop tells the young men, "It was different then. We didn't make so much of a fuss. Maybe we should have. . .I love what you're trying to do but we can't re-write history to suit you." Greenspan also has a bravura turn as a non-stop cussing transvestite who wanders into a piano bar on the day Judy Garland died and ends up singing " Over The Rainbow." As done by Greenspan, this been there done that moment almost feels brand new. Another terrific musical interlude comes from Michael McElroy, as a gay Cab Calloway type singing "Ten Cents a Dance" in a Harlem nightclub at the top of the second act.

Frederic Weller is as impressive as a gay man as he was as the homophic Shane in Richard Greenberg's Take Me Out. I think you've got the idea. What Some Men lacks in the way of edginess and authenticity as a major theatrical event, is sharpened and polished by the ensemble.

The staging adds a crucial plus factor to this production. Mark Wendland's set is simple and handsomely stylized, with two huge chandeliers to add a just enough of a showy touch. Kevin Adams lighting is a dazzler, turning the stage from pearl gray to brilliant reds, greens and blues. John Gramada's sound design and Linda Cho's costumes (especially her dress and hat for Greenspan's Archie) round out the excellence of the production values.

All in all, Some Men is more a gift to actors than a timeless or terribly original picture of eight decades of gay experience. The wedding that bookends the deftly juxtaposed stories undoubtedly aims to bring the days when homosexuals understandably feared public exposure full circle. That circle takes at least fifteen minutes too long to complete and leaves you wishing that Mr. McNally had managed to stop leaning quite so heavily on the queer jokes and character types that makes Some Men a light repast rather than a really substantial meal.

To read our review of the Philadelphia production go here.

By Terrence McNally
Directed by Trip Cullman.
Cast: Don Amendolia, Kelly AuCoin, Romain Frugé), David Greenspan , Jesse Hooker, Michael McElroy, Pedro Pascal), Randy Redd and Frederick Weller.
Sets: Mark Wendland
Costumes: Linda Cho
Lights: Kevin Adams
Sound: John Gromada
Running Time: 2 1/2 hours and intermission
Second Stage, 307 West 43rd Street (212) 246-4422
Tuesdas at 7:00pm, Wednesday 2:00pm & 8:00pm, Thursday and Fridays at 8pm. Saturday 2:00pm & 8:00pm and Sunday at 3:00pm.
From 3/03/07 to 4/15/07; opening 3/26/07
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer at March 25th matinee
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