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 be 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 setting up the next scene.
However, while I do like the work of Beane, 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?”
“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.