The Nance, Douglas Carter Beane’s play on Broadway

The protagonist of Douglas Carter Beane‘s story is Chauncey Miles, a New York burlesque performer in the thirties. “Nance” was the epithet attributed to the actors who played homosexual characters. The story is based on the tender and, at times, dramatic relationship between Chauncey and the young Ned, and on the persecution of both burlesque and the gay community by the politicians of the time. The affection of the public for one of the most acclaimed Broadway interpreters—as of today, Lane has won two Tony Awards, the greatest acknowledgment for a theatrical actor in the United States—is immediate and tangible. The curtain opens with Chauncey Miles reading a newspaper in an automat that we would later find out is a meeting point for homosexuals. As soon as he pulls away his face from the page, he gets welcomed by warm applause from the audience and I believe I see a sparkle and an almost imperceptible hint of a smile in Lane’s gaze.

The whole cast proves to have extraordinary comic timing but, besides the protagonist, someone who probably deserves a special mention is Jonny Orsini, the young actor who made his Broadway debut this year and won the Dorothy London Award, the acknowledgment to emerging interpreters. Lane is known for being a generous professional but, from the space he gives his co-protagonist, it is clear how much he respects him. The subject is especially timely and, even though there are still a lot of prejudices to tear down, it gives the measure of how the times have matured, the customs changed, the legal protection evolved. One of the most crucial scenes is the one in which Lane finds himself in court and, even in the painful turn events have taken, he can make others laugh and make fun of his persecutors as further proof of the fact that, in the face of ignorance and abuse, irony remains a lethal weapon.

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Claudia Pellicano

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