Nathan Lane Rules in The Nance

Playing a first-rate conflicted gay burlesque star

Even so, the thick pileup of material—sex, culture, politics, economics, censorship—makes Beane's play richly exciting. He toggles back and forth between the burlesque stage and the everyday world, with the sketch scenes growing progressively eerier as Chauncey's situation grows more dire, till you're unsure whether to take them as actual stage scenes or nightmares. Lee Beatty's set design and Japhy Weideman's lighting slide increasingly toward the crepuscular, evoking Reginald Marsh's blurry, shadowy paintings of burlesque scenes. The overall production, beautiful without artsiness, makes a fitting home for Lane's authoritative performance, always pitched with perfect precision as it ranges from extravagant, sassy highs to mordant Beckettian lows.

The Nance's accomplishment overrides all its debatable aspects. That it raises so many ideas worth debating, in terms of both history and the present, is a sign of its stature. And that it does so in such a beautifully realized production, with Lane reigning at its center, is a gorgeous rebuke to the mostly shoddy goods surrounding it on Broadway.

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