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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 167

Crowley’s play, radically new in 1968, was extremely popular in its original New York City production and enjoyed another successful run in London before being released as a feature film in 1970. The play was enjoying commercial success as the Stonewall Inn riots launched the gay liberation movement in the summer of 1969 in Greenwich Village, New York City, and for many years the play was performed in regional, community, and college theaters around the United States as the gay rights movement gained momentum. With its significant popular success, The Boys in the Band set a precedent for stage and film honesty in succeeding decades, paving the way for sympathetic portrayals and increasing tolerance of homosexual characters and the homosexual lifestyle. For example, Terrence McNally’s widely popular 1994 award-winning Broadway play, Love! Valor! Compassion!, certainly has its roots in Crowley’s groundbreaking comedy. The Boys in the Band became somewhat dated in subsequent decades because of its politically incorrect caricature of Emory and its pre-AIDS tolerance of sexual promiscuity.

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The Play

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1555

The Boys in the Band opens with Michael, a thirty-year-old New York homosexual, preparing to entertain a group of gay friends at his smartly appointed East Side apartment. The party is to honor the birthday of one of the group, Harold, a Jewish man and a former ice skater. Michael is dressing when one of the guests, Donald, arrives early, dressed casually in khakis and a LaCoste shirt. Donald, who has driven in from Long Island, explains that his psychiatrist canceled his regular appointment. The conversation between Michael and Donald reveals the latter to be insecure about his career and goals, while Michael is revealed as egocentric, selfish, extravagant in his lifestyle, possessed of a sharply bitter wit, and lacking responsibility. Michael admits that he is unprepared and undisciplined, a fault he blames on his parents, just as Donald does his failure to complete his goals. They term this parental influence the Evelyn-and-Walt-Syndrome.

Complications begin when Michael learns from a telephone call that his former college roommate from Georgetown University is in New York and urgently wants to come by and talk with him. The roommate, Alan McCarthy, is a married attorney, ostensibly heterosexual, but he begins crying on the telephone, and Michael is moved to allow an immediate visit. Michael expresses concern about how Alan might react to a homosexual gathering, but before Alan can get to the apartment, other party guests begin to arrive: Emory, an effeminate, flamboyant interior decorator; Hank, a conservatively dressed schoolteacher who is awaiting a divorce; and Larry, a commercial artist with whom Hank currently is living. Michael warns the group that his heterosexual former roommate is en route, information that sparks conversation about Michael’s “coming out”—his beginning to realize his homosexuality—while in college. There is another in a series of false scares as another gay guest, a black man named Bernard, arrives.

As the various homosexual guests mingle and talk, Alan again calls, this time to tell Michael he is not coming after all, a revelation that temporarily puts the gay group at ease as the party continues. The door buzzer sounds, but it is not Harold, the guest of honor, merely a delivery boy from the bakery with a...

(The entire section contains 4993 words.)

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