When The Boys in the Band opened off Broadway in 1968, it polarized the gay community: On the one hand, the play portrayed gay men in terms of noxious stereotypes basically as fey, bitchy queens who needed only to down a couple of drinks in order to start stabbing each other in the back. Indeed, the eponymous 1970 film using the same cast and storyline is a shockingly dated campfest. I went to see Boys in the Band several times, says playwright Edward Albee, prominently featured in the documentary Making the Boys. And more and more, I saw an audience there of straights, who were so happy to be able to see people they didnt have to respect.
On the other hand, The Boys in the Band was the first real mainstream portrayal of gay men, and, stereotypes notwithstanding, it humanized what was then an almost inconceivably marginalized group in a way that nothing else up to that point ever had. That positive/negative tension is the focus of Making the Boys, a documentary that takes a handful of spirited interviews from people touched by the play and makes the case for how The Boys in the Band, despite its many flaws, gave shape to what was then emerging as the gay-rights struggle.
See it tonight at the Denver FilmCenter, 2510 East Colfax Avenue, where it will play through March 31; for more information on show-times, or to purchase tickets ($9.75 for non-members), call 303-595-3456 or visit www.denverfilm.org.
March 25-31, 2011