My first question to Neal Shorstein is, Why a revival of The Boys in the Band, Mart Crowley's 1968 paean to gay self-loathing? Shorstein's response is immediate. "I was watching the video, which I hadn't seen before -- everybody told me it was so depressing, so politically incorrect -- but I had a good feeling from watching it, a real sense of how far we've come in the 28 years since the play opened. People who live in big cities don't realize that much of the play is still happening in lots of places. I grew up as a gay man in the South with all the denial, the hostility, the Nellie behavior."
"We can look at this," Shorstein continues, "as a piece of history, and it is an important piece of gay literature. We can also use it to see how far we've come, and how far we have to go." The production is set in '68, but, says Shorstein, "we're approaching it with what we know today. Michael is a character who has been played on one note of meanness throughout. We're looking at why Michael is the way he is, giving him more texture. We're giving more strength to Emory, the Nellie character. Our Emory could very well have led the riots at Stonewall." The Boys in the Band opens July 20 at the 450 Geary Studio; call 621-7797 for tickets.
There is a certain nostalgia in a production of The Boys in the Band, not for self-loathing, of course, but for the sexual freedom that it suggests. If The Boys in the Band represents the first glimmer of liberation, Jerker is a stunning portrayal of life during the plague. Robert Chesley's "Pornographic Elegy With Redeeming Social Value and a Hymn to the Queer Men of San Francisco in Twenty Telephone Calls, Many of Them Dirty" is a graphic look at sex after the glory years of the '70s and much more. Chesley uses phone sex, seemingly the most detached mode of sexual activity, to express hope in the power of love. This 10th-anniversary production of Jerker opens July 18 at New Conservatory Theater; Call 861-8972 for tickets.
Burn My Butt -- A Perversion, a new comedy about an embattled secretary and her fascistic boss by a new writer, Tony Perucci, plays for one night only: July 17 at Exit Theater. It's $5 -- what can you lose? Call 885-6261. ... Planning continues apace for the Oct. 16 benefit for Pieces of the Quilt. Volunteers are needed to make decorations, serve food, and generally help out. The reward for your efforts -- all proceeds from the production support Project Open Hand and the Names Project. Call 441-8001 to sign up.