I am such a fan of writer Douglas Carter Beane and actor Nathan Lane that I thought “The Nance” would be the best play on Broadway this year.
The play is really good. It’s witty, ribald and heartbreaking as it tells the story of a gay burlesque actor who has to use secret codes and handshakes to able to meet men for same sex relations and relationships. It takes places in a day when men met at automats or other innocuous places to search for love for a night or a life time.
Lane’s Chauncey Miles is “allowed” to be a Nancy Boy on stage but when that reality seeps over into his real word, controversy and court time follows.
Lane is completely brilliant in a role in which he goes for the jugular for belly laughs as we’d expect, but opens up his harder self-protective shell that keeps his character safe from harm in his personal life.
I’ve never seen Lane in a more dramatic turn and it looks good on him.
He is aptly supported by a great trio of burlesque girls including Cady Huffman whom Lane worked with in “The Producers” and she still sizzles. His love interest played by Jonny Orsini is actually the heart of the show, bringing most of the tender moments to life. He also has drawn a lot of attention from the media due to his full frontal nudity scene and, in the double entendre spirit of the show, he has a big part. The scene actually isn’t meant to titillate and the mere mention of it should not take away from Orsini’s acting talents.
Kudos also go to veteran actor Lewis J. Stadlen who truly makes us feel we’re watching a vaudevillian act when he is on stage.
Aside from the acting, the most amazing thing about “The Nance” is John Lee Beatty’s sets and the way in which director Jack O’Brien cleverly arranged set changes. The idea of spinning the sets to the next scene keeps the audience’s interest and shortens very setting up the next scene.
However, while I do like the work of Beane here and he is absolutely one of my favorite modern playwrights, I felt there was something missing from “The Nance” and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Beane’s worth with “The Little Dog Laughed” and his book on “Xanadu” kept my interest at all times. “The Nance” has great moments of brilliance but I was still left at the end saying, “Is that all there is?”
Maybe my experience was hurt by the extremely rude staff. When I was at will call there were two ladies in their 80s accidentally in the wrong line and the female employee guarding the velvet rope wouldn’t let them by and forced them to go outside and enter through the next door. These sweet ladies actually were going to the building next door until I guided them on the right path into the theatre.
Furthermore, my guest and I were separated by a group of five that got between us but she was at the front and didn’t have the tickets and didn’t realize I still wasn’t behind her. She got yelled at for not sticking with the person with the tickets.
I point out this rude behavior mainly because there will be a lot more 80 year women coming to see to see this show due to the play’s time period and people need to be courtesy to visitors especially our seniors.
“The Nance” is nominated for five Tony Awards including Best Actor for Lane and those magnificent sets. It plays at New York’s Lyceum Theatre and has been extended through August 11, 2013.
Get more information at www.lct.org.