The cast of The Bent's production of The Boys in the Band. Credit: Wilkinson

I didn’t like The Boys in the Band, playing through this coming weekend at the Palm Springs Cultural Center; I loved it. In fact, I loved everything about it. Even if you saw the movie decades ago when it came out, this production is very different, so don’t miss this play because you think you “already saw it.”

It takes place in the 1960s. The setting is Michael’s living room, which features then-hip Danish furniture … and a rather large cross on the wall. On stage right is a stairway leading up to the dressing room, bath and bedroom of the host, who is preparing to host a party for friend Harold’s birthday.

The Bent has made extraordinary use of the theater for this final production of the company’s first season. They have Nick Wass to thank, as he is in charge of everything technical, sound and lighting.

Michael (Terry Ray) and his friend/ex Donald (Scott Sterling Hill) start the play with a discussion of many things, including the dread of getting old, losing one’s hair and blaming their parents for their being gay. Michael receives a curious phone call from an old friend, Alan (Kevin Steinberg). Alan, evidently, is straight, and Michael does not want him to come over on an evening when he is hosting an all-male gay party—but Alan is so hysterical that Michael relents. In further conversation with Donald, Michael reveals that he has quit drinking, largely because he has found it makes him hostile … plus he can’t face another morning-after “icks” attack. Believe it or not, there are a lot of laughs involved in all this.

The party guests arrive. Larry (Matthew Yenesel) is there, as is his partner, Hank (Kai Brothers), who teaches school. Emory (Grey LeFey) is one of the most unforgettable characters—and he is given the greatest number of laughs. Frail and older, he is with Bernard (Tony Bradford), a handsome Black gentleman who is a standout because of his bright-red sweater in a sea of earth tones and dark colors. Emory’s gift to Harold on his birthday is an actual urban cowboy (Emrhys Cooper), who is as gorgeous as he is dumb, dressed only in jean shorts, a vest, a cowboy hat and boots. (Where did they FIND him?)

Finally, the always-late and very self-conscious Harold appears, played by Scott Khouri, who wears a leisure suit and keeps his sunglasses on indoors.

To round out things, Alan shows up, wearing black tie and explaining that the front door was open downstairs. (He looks so much like a young Bruce Willis!) He meets all the party guests, giving us their names at last, and the strange mix is complete.

At this point, we have to wonder how on earth the director, Steve Rosenbaum, handled all this. The casting was genius, and everyone fits his role perfectly, but the logistics of where everyone goes—and when—had to cause a stress headache. Rosenbaum’s touch is magnificent, bringing out all the subtle differences between the characters.

Kevin Steinberg and Terry Ray in The Bent’s production of The Boys in the Band. Credit: Wilkinson

With a touch of viciousness, Michael proposes that they play a game in which points are “earned” for phoning the one true love everyone had in their lives. It is an agonizing game, but this is where playwright Mart Crowley lets the audience find out a lot about each person and their histories, their oddities, their secrets.

There is no intermission, which helps audience members get swept away by the evening, as if one was really there: The way the personalities blend and balk, react to the drinks and play the game will take you from your theater chair and put you into that New York living room.

I usually go through the cast and analyze acting skills and techniques, but here, I can only say that they are a most extraordinary group, and every one of them is to be praised for their contribution to the whole work.

I was hugely moved by this play and this performance. In fact, there is a moment that actually brought me out of my chair with a (small) scream. My biggest fear was that someone would trip over the long phone cord which kept curling around the actors’ legs and feet … but fortunately, nobody did. (You forgot about those long phone cords, didn’t you?)

Please do see this play. This production of The Boys in the Band is a most extraordinary work, magnificently handled by the director and cast—and a triumphant conclusion to LGBTQ theater company The Bent’s excellent first season.

The Bent’s production of The Boys in the Band will be performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, May 7, at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $35. For tickets or more information, visit

Valerie-Jean Hume’s career has included working as a stage/film/commercial/TV/voiceover actress, radio personality/host, voice and speech teacher, musician, lounge singer, cruise-ship hostess, theater...

One reply on “Incredible Ensemble: The Bent’s Production of ‘The Boys in the Band’ Is a Magnificently Cast Marvel”

  1. Thank you again V.J. for introducing me to this wonderful community newspaper, this vital theater group, and your reviews. Again you made me wish I was in the audience! Many miles away, as an occasional attendee of local theater, I realize it is time to become a season ticket holder here in my own neighborhood.

    Your review refreshes my understanding of the whole theater, cast and crew, including the director. The reminder of the art of fitting it all in – on a stage set will forever have me looking, listening, and feeling more closely as I enjoy the art of theater.

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