(Please click on the title to see the complete review.)
All praise to Douglas Carter Beane for creating Chauncey Miles, a role that Nathan Lane was born to play. He is a complex character -- a homosexual who plays a flamboyant gay stereotype in burlesque, but who finds drag demeaning, whose politics are arch-conservative, whose preferred sex is a romp in the park or a pickup at the Automat in Greenwich Village, but who, surprisingly, attracts the love of Ned (Jonny Orsini), an young innocent new to the big city. A pre-election vice crackdown in 1937 puts both his livelihood and his lifestyle in jeopardy. Beame's clever concept is to alternate scenes of Chauncey's personal life with burlesque routines and backstage scenes. The burlesque sketches with his stage partner Efram (the excellent Louis J. Stadlen) are hoary but still hilarious. The three strippers, Sylvie, Joan and Carmen (Cady Huffman, Jenni Barber and Andrea Burns) are the funniest to tread the boards since "Gypsy." The rapid alternation of short scenes in the first act works like clockwork. The second act does not fare as well. The level of inventiveness is not as high, the focus gets a little blurry, and the ending is peculiar and abrupt. For Lane fans, his performance makes the play a "must-see" despite the flaws. Orsini runs the gamut from wooden to inspired; he certainly shines in the obligatory nude scene. John Lee Beatty's set design is effective and Ann Roth's costumes are evocative. Director Jack O'Brien's work is mostly fine. I wish the second act were better, but I am still very glad that I saw the play. This Lincoln Center Theater production at the Lyceum is still in previews as I write this. Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes including intermission.