William Henderson February 29, 2008
During the audience break between Parts I and II of the recent Boston Theatre Works production of “Angels in America,” Maurice Parent — who played Belize, an unnamed homeless man, and Mr. Lies — had a rehearsal for the SpeakEasy Stage Company production of “Some Men” (running through March 29). In it, he portrays six characters, bringing the total number of personalities into which he has slipped for these two productions to nine, a feat by any stretch of the imagination.
“It was this bizarre creative wavelength,” said Parent during a recent telephone interview. “I had done a show, then came to rehearsal to do my lines, and then I had to go back to the show. I was so tired, but it was great.”
And so it goes for Parent, who didn’t plan to book two productions back-to-back, but is grateful for the chance to show Boston audiences another side of himself — make that an additional six sides of himself.
In “Some Men,” written by out playwright Terrence McNally and making its New England premiere with this production, Parent plays Marcus, The Snake, Alex, Angel Eyes, Mendy, Seb and Gordon (not at the same time, obviously), revisiting some key moments of gay history along the way. The story is simple, even if its subject matter is not: while two men exchange wedding vows, their friends at the ceremony reminisce about their own loves, lives and relationships, taking the audience on a journey through the lives of American gay men, from World War I and the Stonewall Riots of 1969 to the present day struggle for marriage equality.
But beyond this, says Parent, the play uncovers what it is that links these men together, not just a shared intimacy, but a history all their own.
“Each actor plays five or six different characters at different points throughout history. The characters have a commonality, they’re gay, but sexuality aside, they all want connection. We all just want connection,” said Parent. “We’re all human. We’re all social animals and I think the point is that regardless of blocks or impediments that may get in your way, you’re going to figure out a way to get your human need for connection and community.”
Later, he refers to one moment in the play, a pivotal moment near the end, in which the characters realize that while times may have been tough and battles hard-won, at the end, “it’s hard to look at our history and see it as completely horrible, because it wasn’t.”
Joining Parent in this trip through time are Diego Arciniegas, Christopher Michael Brophy, Paul Cereghino, Ben Lambert, Christopher Loftus, Will McGarrahan, Robert Saoud and Andrew Wehling.
Before any role, says Parent, he likes to research, be it the character (in the case of someone real) or the time period in which the play is set. For “Some Men,” he looked no further than one of his uncles, a gay man who lived in New York in the 1980s. Parent had talked to this same uncle while researching his roles in “Angels in America.” His uncle, said Parent, shared “crazy stories” about a New York that, just 25 years ago, is very different than the New York of today. Sex and drugs, those were the two biggest vices, said Parent’s uncle. Whole sections of the city felt off-limits to gay men.
Not so today.
“Given these circumstances,” said Parent, “these men managed to have lives and fun and build a community. We don’t have to worry about a lot of what they worried about, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that now is any better than then. But we should still cherish our history.”
Parent’s roles in the production run the gamut, from a successful modern-day businessman (Marcus) to a “vicious queen” (Snake) to Alex (“the whitest black man ever”).
“I don’t know what that means, but that’s who he is,” quipped Parent.
Of his other roles, he’s Angel Eyes, the owner of a Speakeasy in Harlem; Mendy, a bathhouse regular, and Gordon, the leader of a therapy group.
“There are parts of me in every character,” said Parent, who draws the line at picking any one favorite.
What he does profess as a favorite is Boston (the city, not the music group), and that’s why you’re sure to see him in other productions around town.
“I’m loving Boston,” said Parent, who is already in talks to extend his stay with a number of other area productions. “I’m definitely looking to stay here and work a while longer.”//
“Some Men” runs through March 29 at the Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street, Boston. Performances will take place on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., on Fridays at 8 p.m., on Saturdays at 4 and 8 p.m., and on Sundays at 3 p.m. There is an added performance on Tuesday, March 25 at 7:30 p.m. Keep in mind these special events around the production of “Some Men”: On March 2 at 1:30 p.m., there is a Boston Globe subscriber pre-show event; on March 9 after the 3 p.m. performance there will be a post-show talkback with the cast; and on March 16 at 8 p.m., SpeakEasy Stage hosts its Out and About Night, an evening for the GLBT community of New England. For tickets connect to www.speakeasystage.com.
|Maurice Emmanuel Parent