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THE NANCE BROADWAY REVIEWS
Opening Night: April 15, 2013
Synopsis: A nance, according to Webster's Dictionary, is "an effeminate or homosexual man." In the world of 1930's burlesque, a nance was a wildly popular character, a stereotypically camp homosexual man, most times played by a straight performer. In The Nance, playwright Douglas Carter Beane tells the story of Chauncey Miles (to be played by Nathan Lane), a headline nance performer in New York burlesque, who also happens to be a homosexual. Integrating burlesque sketches into his drama, Beane paints, with humor and pathos, the portrait of a homosexual man, living and working in the secretive and dangerous gay world of 1930's New York, whose outrageous antics on the burlesque stage stand in marked contrast to his messy offstage life.
NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW:
"A spotlight works like a face-lift on Chauncey Miles, the title character of “The Nance,” the strained if heartfelt new play by Douglas Carter Beane, set in the twilight of burlesque. As portrayed with shiny expertise and dark conviction by Nathan Lane in a production that opened on Monday night at the Lyceum Theater, Chauncey looks every year of whatever age he may admit to, and then some, whenever he’s not onstage. "
Lane as the tortured soul at the play's heart is magnificent -- showing sides that are charming, witty, savage, self-destructive and yearning. While many nances were actually straight men, Miles is a gay man pretending to be an over-the-top, ridiculously limp-wristed fairy, ("kind of like a Negro doing blackface," he says) which makes him sometimes sick to his stomach." "
"Plays conjuring Manhattan in the 1930s often take on the look of a live-action Edward Hopper painting. Not a bad thing. Actually, the effect is stunning when the curtain rises on The Nance, and what's revealed is the Hopper-like replica of a Horn & Hardart restaurant with its bank of small windows (ubiquitous John Lee Beatty is the set designer) and a few men sporting fedoras at separate tables..."
"Even if the play eventually loses momentum, it is the most ambitious and substantial effort made to date by Beane, who is known primarily for writing the books of silly musicals like "Xanadu" and "Lysistrata Jones." It also allows Lane to combine his comedic persona with a tragic undertone"
"Chauncey plays 'the pansy'' — a.k.a. ''the Nance'' — who gets the laughs between striptease performances. And he actually is a pansy, ''which is kind of like a Negro doing black face,'' Chauncey tells handsome, butch, fresh-from-Buffalo Ned (Jonny Orsini) in a Greenwich Village automat circa 1937. He is also a Republican: ''Say something nice about Roosevelt and prepare to have your eyes scratched out.'' Meanwhile, who knew the automat was such a hot gay pickup spot? The Nance captures a fascinating slice of bygone New York City life."
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