Friday, July 3, 2009

“Next Fall” and “The Tempermentals”

This past Sunday, we saw two very interesting gay plays: “Next Fall” ( and “The Temperamentals” (, as part of my 75th birthday celebration. I wouldn’t, as a rule, see two plays in one day, but this was the only time we had, so we did it.
“Next Fall” describes what happens when a gay man is in a serious auto accident in Manhattan and his family from the hinterland descends on the hospital without knowing he is gay and meeting his lover for the first time. The gay man is a born-again evangelical and his boyfriend is your typical wiseacre atheist New Yorker who keeps trying in flashbacks to get his boyfriend to explain and defend his beliefs. The Evangelical is cowardly for not coming out to his family long ago, and the New Yorker is irritating for his continual badgering, but they clearly love each other. The gay man dies and the play ends without the audience knowing if the family ever got it that their son was gay. The play is a good commentary on the cost of being in the closet.
The play in the evening, “The Temperamentals” was about the cost of being out of the closet. The main characters are Harry Hay and his lover Rudi Gernreich, the fashion designer, who in Los Angeles in the 1950s started the Mattachine Society, one of the first, if not the first, Gay liberation organizations in America. At a time when even being suspected of being gay was a cause for arrest, they proclaimed that homosexuality was not a perversion, a sickness, or a crime. Hay and the Mattachines organized one of the first trials of a gay man, who entrapped by the police in a sexual encounter, pleaded not guilty. Usually, gay men in such sting operations pleaded guilty and avoided the publicity of a trial. The man was found not guilty because the jury was hung, but interestingly, there was a conspiracy of silence with no reports of the trial or its outcome in the press. As a result of this silence, Hay founded the “The Mattachine Review,” a magazine, to publicize the trial and to provide other news of interest to the “Temperamentals,” which was Hay’s name for homosexuals. It was probably the first publication of its type in the U.S. The play is a little talky, but consistently interesting and clearly shows how brave it was to be out in the ‘50s. Also, for us the day demonstrated why New York is so essential to America. Only in New York would two plays like this find audiences, and both were sold out. “Next Fall” closes on July 11th and “The Temperamentals” on August 23rd. Go see them for yourself.

1 comment:

Franklyn said...

The Tempermentals would have been more enjoyable to me if it were not for the fact that Harry Hay was such an unpleasant person. Straight or Gay being irritable and argumentative doesn't help. I felt sorry for poor Rudi.