When Mart Crowleys landmark The Boys in the Band opened Off-Broadway to sellout crowds of gays, starved for representations of their lives, in January 1968, Stonewall was 17 months away. Yet by the time William Friedkins film adaptation, which included all nine original troupe members, was released less than a year after the legendary homosexual intifada, Crowleys work now seemed outrageously retrograde to many newly politicized homos, who abhorred its pink-face minstrelsy of sobs, self-loathing, and desperate pleading for tolerance. Crayton Robeys documentary on this queer cultural touchstone admirably presents both sides of the divide, soliciting the memories of various éminences grises, most tartly from Edward Albee, who recalls, I found it a highly skillful playthat I despised. Robeys assiduous research also unearths some amazing archival material, including a 1980 public-access-TV interview with Robert La Tourneaux, who played the dumb hustler in Boys and was the first of its five cast members to die of AIDS. But after so skillfully assembling the eloquent reflections of elder statesmen, boomer playwrights (like Tony Kushner) and cultural critics (like the Voices Michael Musto), and Crowley himself, Robeys choice to rely on reality-TV twerps like Carson Kressley and Christian Siriano for lavender-life insight is baffling. Was Justin Bond not available?
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