Performance diary: ANOTHER AMERICAN: asking and telling

August 7, 2010

August 2
– Somehow I managed not to see Marc Wolf’s Obie Award-winning performance Another American: Asking and Telling when he first performed it in 1999-2000 at the New Group, although I heard very favorable things about it. I was under the mistaken impression that Wolf himself had been in the military and was discoursing about his own experience as well as that of others. Only now, when he revived the show for a series of 5 Monday-night performances at the DR2 Theatre in Union Square, do I realize that he did an Anna Deveare Smith number, going on the road and interviewing a wide range of people about the topic of gays serving in the military. He sculpted a play out of his interviews and plays all the various subjects: men and women, gay and straight, military and non-military, pro-DADT and agin. It’s a fantastic show. Wolf is an excellent (and strikingly handsome) actor who is able to transform himself vocally and physically so at times you can’t believe you’re seeing the same guy, even though he uses a minimum of props and costumes. Among the most memorable characters he impersonates are Miriam Ben-Shalom (the first openly gay person to serve in the military, after she spent years fighting an involuntary discharge), the mother of Allen Schindler (a gay Navy man who was beaten to death by shipmates), the guy who invented the expression “don’t ask don’t tell” (a straight academic who doesn’t think gays should be allowed to serve), and a very flamboyant ex-Marine whose fellow soldiers in Vietnam nicknamed him “Mary Alice” and accepted him wholeheartedly (he is repeatedly caught up on the brink of tears remembering the guys who didn’t make it back from that war). The little pocket of information Wolf dramatizes that I hadn’t thought about was the way gay soldiers have been treated by the military in the period between discovery and discharge, which was often brutal and horrifying. The show was beautifully performed and very well directed by Joe Mantello. My friend Wolfie, who knows the actor, corralled Andy and me into going, and we were joined by Stephen Soba and Jonathan Arnold, who sported an amazing pair of trousers (see below) that drew compliments from strangers right and left. We had a delicious dinner afterwards at L’Express on Park Avenue.

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