The Temperamentals at the Blank

The Temperamentals, a 1950s-era euphemism for homosexuals, is an affecting play that attempts to humanize LGBT history, highlighting the earliest attempts to organize gays and bring them from second-class citizens to a group with political power.

The play focuses on Harry Hay and a group of his Los Angeles friends who together formed what would become the Mattachine Society with the goal of protecting the homosexual community and improving its civil rights.

The play begins with that fateful meeting between Hay and his soon-to-be lover, Viennese costumer Rudi Gernreich. Infused with snappy dialogue and a bit of film noir-ish style, The Temperamentals features Dennis Christopher effectively channeling Hay’s flamboyant persona.

Erich Bergen’s Rudi is a perfect match and through the pair’s onstage chemsitry one can easily see why Hay and Gernreich would eventually fall in love. However, at times, the play tends to slip into sentimentality and various moments at which the actors speak directly to the audience don’t work as effectively as they might. Still, The Temperamentals manages to entertain while it educates.

Surprisingly enough, many gays in the community incorrectly point to Stonewall as the starting point of the gay rights movement, but it was in November of 1950 that Hay along with Gernreich, Dale Jennings, Bob Hull, and Chuck Rowland held their first official Mattachine Society meeting in Los Angeles under its original name, “Society of Fools.” The society, modeled after the Communist Party, first attempted to rally open public support for member Jennings after his arrest in a bathroom on a charge of lewd behavior.

Jennings denied any wrongdoing and the group’s strategy of bringing attention to the issue of police entrapment of homosexual men, who would often plead guilty in hopes that their lives would continue with as little publicity as possible, brought much needed support to the Society.

All of these events and the ultimate decline of the group in the late 60s for being too traditional are depicted in the play with great enthusiasm. The cast includes Mark Shundock as Chuck Rowland (who later went on to form the Church of ONE Brotherhood and in 1982 founded Celebration Theatre here in Los Angeles),

John Tartaglia is Bob Hull, and Patrick Scott Lewis plays Dale Jennings. Director Michael Matthews has a strong cast with these five actors, who collectively minimalize the few shortcomings of Jon Marans’ script. With a little tightening up, the play will truly soar.

Performances through May 22 at The Blank’s 2nd Stage Theatre in Hollywood. For tickets and information, please visit www.theblank.com or call 323-661-9827.

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About Obed Medina
Obed received his BA in Creative Writing from the University of California at Riverside. He has freelanced and volunteered at various theatre companies in Los Angeles since 2002. He launched his own workshop theatre company in 2008 and has produced six original one-act plays and one Off-Broadway hit. Currently, he is living in Ashland, Oregon working on his writing and founder of Collaborative Theatre Project.

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