Frederick Weller and Jesse Hooker
in Some Men
(© Joan Marcus)
Frederick Weller and Jesse Hooker
in Some Men
(© Joan Marcus)
Gay marriage is a subject that pushes a lot of people's buttons, whether they're liberal or conservative. In his new play at Second Stage Theatre, Some Men, Terrence McNally uses the frame of a gay wedding to explore myriad aspects of gay male life. Ably directed by Trip Cullman, the work isn't perfect, but it is humorous and worthwhile.

Some Men opens with guests arriving at the Waldorf-Astoria for the wedding, and the occasion prompts the men in attendance to reflect upon their lives. Some of the scenes that follow represent the pasts of the various guests; but since McNally intends his play to encompass about a century's worth of history, the play also includes scenes that are meant to depict ancestors of a few of the contemporary characters.

The members of the ensemble cast -- Don Amendolia, Kelly AuCoin, Romain Frugé, David Greenspan, Jesse Hooker, Michael McElroy, Pedro Pascal, Randy Redd, and Frederick Weller -- play multiple roles, and each gets his moment to shine. Weller is consistently wonderful, making every one of his characterizations distinct and compelling. His portrayal of Paul, a soldier attending the funeral of his lover Tommy, is particularly strong. Amendolia, as Tommy's Dad and a slew of other men, is also a standout.

AuCoin's Bernie is the best-developed of the recurring characters; the actor convincingly shows the audience Bernie's journey from a closeted married man who hooks up with a male prostitute, to his struggles to come out of the closet, to meeting his long-term partner at a gay bathhouse, to adjusting to the fact that his son, who's also gay, is about to adopt a child with his male lover.

While the majority of the play is limited to the experiences of gay white men of a certain income level, a few scenes do address the ways that class -- and to a lesser extent, race -- affect sexual dynamics. One segment shows a wealthy man's dalliance with his chauffeur. Another is set in 1930s Harlem, where a man nicknamed Angel Eyes (McElroy) sings Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's "Ten Cents a Dance" and claims that lyricist Hart wrote it for him.

In perhaps the most interesting scene, McNally puts a different spin on the oft-told tale of the Stonewall riots by shifting the perspective to a nearby piano bar serving a gay clientele, most of whom are of a higher social class than the patrons of the Stonewall. The entrance of a drag queen (brilliantly played by Greenspan) brings the chaos and revolutionary fervor to these men, who lead quiet lives on the sidelines.

McNally's dialogue includes a number of clever and amusing one-liners, but not all of his characters are fleshed out as much as they need to be. At times, the playwright relies too much on broad caricatures, such as his depiction of a couple of young Vassar students (played by Pascal and Hooker) who are majoring in gender studies. Ostensibly, they're interviewing older gay men for a school project, but the superior attitude they take toward their subjects feels forced and unbelievable.

Wisely, McNally doesn't make all of the characters saints, and the flawed ones are often the most interesting. Weller delivers an outstanding monologue as Michael, one of the bridegrooms; he tells his therapy group about his inability to be monogamous, calling into question what gay marriage actually represents. In moments like this, which deal with the complexity of these people's lives, Some Men proves to be as thought-provoking as it is entertaining.