Critical Context

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

At the close of The Boys in the Band, the guilt-ridden Michael, attempting to suggest to Donald the impossibility of comprehending human relationships, says: “As my father said to me when he died in my arms, ’I don’t understand any of it. I never did.’ ” That phrase, suggestive of both the implausibility and the enigma of human relationships, is a recurring touchstone in the drama of Mart Crowley.

Michael, the embittered homosexual protagonist of The Boys in the Band, also appears as the central figure in Crowley’s other, less known plays, Remote Asylum, produced in Los Angeles in 1970, A Breeze from the Gulf, produced in New York in 1973, and For Reasons That Remain Unclear (pr. 1993, pb. 1996). In each of these plays the remark about the impenetrable mystery of human relationships is repeated. In Remote Asylum Michael says it to a dying man, while in A Breeze from the Gulf Crowley gives the scene in which a youthful Michael hears the words from his dying father. The Michael figure appears as an adult in For Reasons That Remain Unclear.

Michael clearly is a surrogate for the playwright himself. In The Boys in the Band, Michael refers to there being no Shubert Theatre in Hot Coffee, Mississippi, a hamlet not far from Crowley’s hometown of Vicksburg. Crowley’s third play, A Breeze from the Gulf, recapitulates events in Michael’s teenage...

(The entire section is 453 words.)