Entertainment » Theatre

Love! Valour! Compassion!

by Clinton Campbell
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday May 7, 2018
Brooks Reeves, David Anderson, Cody Sloan, Jeremy Johnson, Michael Blunt and Keith Foster in Zeitgeist Stage Company's production of Love! Valour! Compassion! At the BCA through May 19.  (Photo by Richard Hall/Silverline Images)
Brooks Reeves, David Anderson, Cody Sloan, Jeremy Johnson, Michael Blunt and Keith Foster in Zeitgeist Stage Company's production of Love! Valour! Compassion! At the BCA through May 19. (Photo by Richard Hall/Silverline Images)  

Despite a decade's long career and numerous awards and accolades, Terrence McNally is all too often overlooked as one of America's great playwrights. His ability to find sadness in laughter and the laughter in sadness is unparalleled. One of the shining examples of this uncommon ability is his 1994 hit "Love! Valour! Compassion!"

Set in a farmhouse in Dutchess County, a couple of hours north of Manhattan, the play centers on the lives of a group of gay men over the three holidays of summer (Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day). The men are mostly white, mostly upper-middle class, and mostly middle age. It is the era where AIDS was still a death sentence but there were now at least treatments that could delay the inevitable.

Despite the fact that is sounds like a relatively simple show, it is rarely performed due to other requirements. Is that a lake? Are the guys swimming? Wait - are they all naked? Yes, yes, and yes.

Seeing the original production felt groundbreaking as well as defiant. All the tropes of a traditional heterosexual weekend getaway rom-com, but with seven gay men being openly affectionate and sexual... and yes, at times, nude. It felt like the first signs of mainstream acceptance - the Anti-"Boys in the Band". Finally, here was a show that expressed our lives, our hopes, and our fears without condescension or mocking.

Well the revolutionary side of the show has faded over the last 24 years, but the touching comedy about life and love remains intact.

David J. Miller's Zeitgeist Stage Company production currently playing at the Boston Center for the Arts, is a faithful and confident staging of this noted play. His use of the space is exceptional as is his navigation of the technical requirements. Additionally, he manages to maintain just the right balance of comedy and drama that is necessary for McNally's works.

His ensemble, as a whole, give strong performances. As with many shows in Boston, true age appropriate casting for an entire company remains elusive.

Of particular note are Jeremy Johnson as a sweet, funny, and heartbreaking Buzz and David Anderson as the broken choreographer Gregory who is also the host of the group. Brooks Reeves also gives an admirable performance in the dual role of the twins James/John.

After 24 years, the laughs are a bit different and the lines that bring tears have shifted, but "Love! Valour! Compassion!" remains one of the most touching portrayals of gay relationships in modern theater.

(Now would someone please do a revival of "Lips Together, Teeth Apart?")

Anyway...

"Love! Valour! Compassion!" continues through May 19 at the BCA Plaza Theaters, Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street, Boston, MA. For more information, the Zeitgeist Stage Company website.

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