In Rep Stage’s production of The Temperamentals the ensemble of fine actors plunge into Jon Marans’ very observant play with intensity and verve. Playing with brisk efficiency under the astute direction of Kasi Campbell, this play deals with the prejudice and hypocrisy of society against the ‘temperamentals’ – the code word devised for ‘homosexual.’ Set in the early 1950s in Los Angeles, California – during the time of the Red Scare, this play is an attack against the hysteria and lies that forced people to live in secrecy and fear.
This play may, indeed, be set in the 1950s but there is a very real relevance in the story it portrays if we only look at how the homosexual and many minorities are still being scapegoated today. Though the play is definitely more overtly political, at the core of the play is the rather sweet and touching relationship between Harry Hay, the founder of the Mattachine Society (which fought for the rights of homosexuals not to be persecuted and blackmailed) and Rudy Gernreich, a film fashion designer. Playwright Marans juxtaposes this love story very subtly with the more sociological aspects of the play. The play is a refreshing tragi-comic fusion of the very real fallibility of individuals trying to survive the daily stress of their lives and the harsh constraints of rigid social codes and the ubiquitous conformity of the era.
Nigel Reed as Harry Hay is delightfully and appropriately the subversive maverick in each nuance of his role and Alexander Strain as Gernreich is very much the fashion-conscious foil to the more doctrinaire tirades of Reed’s Harry Hay. The scenes of Reed and Strain interacting on stage alone are particularly moving and striking.
The direction of Kasi Campbell is very authoritative in its all-encompassing reach. The many details of the play are all handled nicely from the shepherding of fine performances from the supporting cast playing demanding multiple roles to the logistics of staging on a steep stage with imposing catwalks. Credit should be given to the scenic design by JD Madsen.
The many supporting roles are handled with skill by a cast of three – Rick Hammerly, Vaughn Irving and Brandon McCoy. An extremely fluid succession of fast blackouts creates a very cinematic feel to this piece.
Not as militantly strident as Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart and not as poetic as Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, The Temperamentals strikes a beautiful balance between the personal and the political. This production might seem like an obvious option for a specialized audience but it also has mass appeal for the message of this play speaks to anyone who has ever been discriminated against.
I commend Rep Stage for ushering in its’ 20th Anniversary Season with this challenging and provocative play. It’s not to be missed!
Rep Stage’s 2012-2013 season schedule.