The not-at-all musical production of Falsettos has been mounted over and over again since it debuted in 1992. It won seven Tony awards - two for the writer, William Finn! It was apparently "enthusiastically received."
The play has just concluded a run at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles. It is a terrible, annoying production that should never have been revived.
In 1992, it must have seemed an in-your-face celebration of homosexuality, while acknowledging its downside to those left in its wake or afflicted with AIDS. But the focus on the gay life is not why the play is so awful. The screeching the players inflict on the audience is so unmusical that it feels like torture. There is not a single memorable musical phrase. The horrific music is coupled with the fact that the four principal adult characters in the play are self-absorbed narcissists who can't be bothered about the well-being of the child. He is a pawn in the lives of these despicable adults. The fourth adult is the father's therapist, who then becomes the wife's therapist. He falls in love with and marries the wife. They become just another boring dysfunctional family, each member devoted solely to himself.
One of the five main characters is the father of a young son who has left his family for a male lover. The wife and son, Jason, are devastated but still love the dad and his partner. But the father "wants it all": his family and his lover.
If you think the normalization of homosexuality was and still is being crammed down your throat, you are right. The play is about one thing, one thing only: the normalization of all things gay, no matter the pain caused to others. The play was written long before the LGBT agenda became a sacrosanct movement. It was produced to push the acceptance of homosexuality, to shock and to embarrass those unfamiliar with the gay lifestyle. (Four point five percent of adult Americans identify as LGBT in the U.S.) Good, tolerant Americans embraced the play and made it a hit.
Did people really love it? Doubtful. The story is as shallow as can be: a grouping of four adults who so wallow in the misery of their own making that it makes you want to run screaming from the theater.
As always, the talent is fine, considering the material, but the script here is the weakest of any major theater production in recent memory. The young boy is the only nominally mature character in the play, and he is about ten.
The second act revolves, loosely, around the planning of Jason's Bar Mitzvah. The play gets dumber and dumber as it progresses. It mocks Judaism over and over again, with a vengeance. A pair of good friends from "next door" are introduced, a lesbian couple - one black, one white, of course. They are a welcome addition to the tedium but cannot save the play.
The set was lame as well, something like a large Rubik's Cube, blocks that the actors moved about to be used in a variety of ways. Clever but dull.
In the end, what this revival proves is that identity politics has infected every aspect of arts and entertainment to their detriment. No longer is a moving story required; no plot is necessary as long as the latest rules of political correctness are enforced. Good music is no longer a prerequisite to mount a musical! As long as the lyrics preach the wide-ranging mantra of the Left, it will be a guaranteed hit.
At the last performance of Falsettos in Los Angeles, many people left at intermission. They were no doubt tired of the trials of these monotonous people squawking their miseries at them in full volume. If only producers cared more about the quality of a narrative than its hectoring politics. And if only they could recognize good music versus bad, the people might remain in their seats.
Theaters like the Ahmanson in Los Angeles have a captive audience: theater-lovers who subscribe each season without knowing what will be presented. They go because they have paid dearly for the tickets and because it is the thing to do. May God bless them for their support and love of theater, but those in charge should stop taking them for granted and bring some joy to their lives, not yet another screed meant to make them feel uncomfortable in their own skins.