Playwright Dan Fingerman creates an amiable if far-fetched scenario in which to examine the generational differences between four gay men. Much of the play is taken up with the results of the 2016 presidential election, leading to fiery, extended debates. The dialogue has plenty of comic flair, the characters are archetypical and the structure is wayward. There’s a beautiful final scene between two old friends that has the audience clapping, and then the play goes on for another cluttered ten minutes. Characters periodically disclose their thoughts through soliloquies.
Out and proud Ira Hirschorn is at 60 a grand old queen, hobbling around on a cane, tossing off pungent zingers. He has endured his parents’ homophobia, AIDS, and now Donald Trump. His 30-year-old, gay nephew Christopher is shockingly an Ivy League graduate, conservative, Republican Trump voter who has an odious Grindr profile.
Ira’s childhood friend, the school principal Larry Cohen, sublimated his homosexuality, married his now deceased wife, had two children and has since come out. His 29 year-old gay son Bryan, is a disaffected hipster who works as a clerk in a Socialist bookstore.
This volatile quartet battle over the personal and the political during a Scotch-fueled weekend at Ira’s Fire Island house. There’s not much in the way of plot, but secrets are revealed, scores are settled and life goes on with new insights. It’s reminiscent of a Terrence McNally play but lacking in polish.
The production is enormously enhanced by Joe Burkard’s captivating scenic design. The playing area of the runway stage has the audience on opposite sides. It’s set with a slightly raised wooden platform, a white floor, surrounded by white, wooden slats, window frames and white pillars. It all vibrantly and cleverly suggests a Fire Island house and patio.
Scott Nelson’s lighting design vividly energizes the relative static situation and numerous scene transitions, with strategically varying hues.
Director Dan Dinero’s fluid staging aids in enlivening this quite talky material with finely presented physical placement of the cast throughout the presentation. Most crucially, Mr. Dinero has achieved sensitive and compelling performances from the actors.
With precise comic timing and blustery pathos, R. Scott Williams is commanding as Ira. Mr. Williams has many affecting moments such as recalling Ira’s bumming a cigarette from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in an elevator, and scolding Roy Cohn. Williams’ charming presence and mannerisms at times recall that of Paul Lynde, and his appearing in a one-man show about that performer is a tantalizing imaginary prospect.
With his appealing vocal delivery and forceful attitude, Marc Sinoway as Bryan marvelously succeeds in transcending the clichés of the angry young man he has to portray. Despite the requisite scruffiness, torn jeans and a wool cap, Mr. Sinoway manages to individualize the character.
As the conservative mouthpiece Christopher, Brian Gligor brings magnetism, humor and sly sensuality to this abrasive role in his winning performance.
Superb as the famed broadcast journalist in last year’s biographical solo play, Murrow, Joseph J. Menino’s talents enrich the nebbish part of Larry. Here, Mr. Menino is low-key but eruptive, and often wearily shuffles around, offering a full-fledged portrait of aged regret.
Passionate, well-intentioned, and accomplished on several levels, but flawed in construction, Boys of a Certain Age doesn’t cohere into a fully satisfying work.
Boys of a Certain Age (through February 25, 2017)
Theatrelab, 357 West 36th Street, 3rd Floor, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit http://www.boysofacertainage.com
Running time: 100 minutes with no intermission