THE TEMPERAMENTALS fits the About Face Theatre mission
About Face Theatre has dedicated itself to “theatre...that advances the national dialogue on sexual and gender identity.” With their current production of THE TEMPERMENTALS they are certainly not backing away from those conversations. The show looks at issues faced in the past and how those topics are still part of the conversation we’re having today.
THE TEMPERMENTALS is the founding history of the first mens’ gay rights group, The Mattachine Society. The play opens with just three chairs on stage and a diner sign off to the left. This sets the tone for the show.
Harry Hay and Rudi Gernreich are seated in the diner discussing cameos or what lies beneath the facade of a rock. Both with these cameos and the men we’re introduced to in the play, there is more than meets the eye.
Harry writes the group’s manifesto, but struggles to find support for his ideas. With the help of Rudi, they start looking for a high profile name to help their cause. They become founding fathers of this organization. They form a romantic relationship as well. Two other partners, Bob Hull and Chuck Rowland, join the cause. Finally, they find the poster-boy for their cause, Dale Jennings.
The first half of the play follows the struggles of recruiting other men for this group and the success they have when their group finally receives some recognition. The second half shows the struggles within the group—both with the founding members’ personal lives and how The Mattachine Society develops as an organization.
A Romance for the Ages
The cast is led by Kyle Hatley as Harry Hay and Lane Anthony Flores as Rudi Gernreich. The two make an unstoppable pair as the leaders for The Mattachine Society. They work tirelessly to find support for this group and are like yin and yang in their personal relationship. Harry is the dominating, action-oriented, go-getter who can sometimes come across as abrasive. Easy-gong and charming Rudi smooths over Harry’s roughness.
It’s Hatley and Flores’ relationship that makes this show incredible. The two, under the direction of Andrew Volkoff, create an undeniable chemistry on stage. They bounce back and forth off each other with fiery dialogue. They shoot meaningful, flirtatious looks at each other. And in the end, when they can’t be together, it nearly breaks your heart.
The rest of the cast, Paul Fagen, Alex Weisman, and Rob Lindley shine just as bright as the other three founding members of the society. The mannerisms and personalities they’ve created for these characters are so vivid and delightful. All the characters bring you into the story they’re telling. Especially in the small intimate space at Theater Wit, you really feel like you’re there with them. Excellent character work and use of the space!
History Repeats Itself
The key takeaway from this play is it’s relevance to today. These men, these “tempermentals” were prosecuted because of who they were. They were unfairly targeted by authorities and subject to societal disapproval. However, they fought back. They fought for their rights. They struggled to not be judged and for acceptance even though they and their actions deviated from the norm.
THE TEMPERMENTALS parallels this current, heavy political era we’re experiencing today. So many other marginalized groups are seeing their human rights dismantled. This is what makes this play worth seeing. It hits you in the gut with its truth. When the actors come forward in one of their meetings and join hands with the audience, you feel like you are in this together fighting with them.
It is an emotional roller coaster. We, the audience are forced to realize how little has changed since the 1950s, and how much more work needs to be done.
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.
Now through February 18th
Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm
Sundays at 3:00pm.
There is an additional 3:00pm performance on Saturday, February 18th
$20 students and seniors
Discounts available for groups of 10 or more
Tickets are currently available at aboutfacetheatre.com, by calling (773) 975-8150 or in person at Theater Wit Box Office
Note: An excerpt of this play appears in Theatre in Chicago.