Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Pride

We saw a play called The Pride on Sunday night down in the West Village. It is one of those still relatively rare pieces that tries hard to take the measure of gay identity at two different times in history, 50 years ago when gay men were hopelessly closeted and now, when they can be far more open yet still do not enjoy full acceptability. It takes place in England and apparently when it opened in the West End last year, it took the London theater by storm. The production here in the States is probably not as good, but there remains much to think about.

For me, anyway, I'm especially intrigued by the title and the concept of the Pride. It is not hard to spot it in the play. One of the gay men from 1958 falls in love with another man, who is utterly unable, at least at first, to acknowledge his own homosexuality, but the man who does openly declare his love realizes that the profound affection he is experiencing also transforms his attitude about being gay. His love for this other man suddenly makes his position as a gay man feel "honest and pure and good," and for the first time, he can say with conviction that "I now have a kind of pride for the person I am, not just the sexual part, but for myself as a whole being." These lines have been criticized for their sentimentality and artificiality. People don't talk like this, the critics scold, and even if they did, why would anyone want to listen to them drone on so boringly. But the thing is, I, for one, do want to listen to these words and do find it moving to hear them said with such sincerity and meaning.

The play as a whole is too long and drags too much in the second half, but those lines about the pride of being gay struck me as somehow honest and pure and good. My feeling is they needed to be said on that stage last night and on many stages for many nights to come until millions can hear them and begin to understand with the kind of compassion that can alter feeling and change behavior and finally allow us as a society to escape, as I sense we are slowly starting to do, from the terrible darkness that has oppressed us for far too long.

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