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We love Paris.

The Paris Letter * Written by Jon Robin Baitz * Directed by Doug Hughes * Starring John Glover and Ron Rifkin * Laura Pels Theatre, New York City (through August 7)

The best gay novel of the year is Jon Robin Baitz's new play, The Paris Letter. It's a beautiful, densely written saga that sprawls in time, space, and subject matter with Henry James's attention to the details of class, Nabokov's telling conciseness, and Michael Cunningham's way with a multigenerational family story. Yet it's not turgid or bookish. With its fascinating, exquisitely drawn characters and almost operatic sweep, it's the kind of play serious theatergoers hunger for.

Fixated as ever on the morality of businessmen, Baitz here focuses on the destructive power of internalized homophobia. The play tracks the lifelong friendship of two men whose paths diverge after a brief affair in their early 20s. Discharged from the Army for being queer, Anton Kilgallen (John Glover: Jason Butler Harner in flashback) goes from the costume department at MGM to Flair magazine to pioneering haute cuisine in Manhattan--he is, in short, a dandy, gay without regrets. Whereas Sandy Sonnenberg (Ron Rifkin, Daniel Eric Gold), from a long line of dull, discreet Jewish bankers, feels tortured by his homosexuality, goes into psychoanalysis with a Socarides-like proponent of "conversion therapy." and builds a happily married life--until his repressed desires drive him to make a ruinous decision.

Masterfully directed by Doug Hughes, four of the actors play double roles, each superbly. But John Glarer (best known for his dual role in Love! Valour! Compassion!) gives a staggering star performance as Anton, who narrates the evening. It's as deep and multifaceted a portrait of a gay character as I've ever seen onstage.
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Title Annotation:The Paris Letter
Author:Shewey, Don
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Theater Review
Date:Jul 19, 2005
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