Synopsis by Mark Deming
The Gay Liberation Movement was still in its embryonic stages, the Stonewall riots were a year away, and homosexuality was rarely treated as anything more than a joke in popular culture (if it was acknowledged at all) when Mart Crowley's play The Boys in the Band opened off-Broadway in the spring of 1968. The Boys in the Band concerned a handful of gay men who gathered for a birthday party on Manhattan's Upper East Side, where the celebration turns sour after alcohol loosens the tongues of some of the guests and they share opinions they had previously kept hidden. While some critics felt some of the characters reflected negative stereotypical views of homosexuals, many others praised it for dealing openly and honestly with the gay community in a way that was unprecedented in mainstream entertainment. The play enjoyed a run of over a thousand performances, and in 1970 William Friedkin adapted the play for the cinema, using the complete original cast in his film version. Filmmaker Crayton Robey offers an insiders' look at how Mart Crowley's drama became a groundbreaking event in both theater and cinema in the documentary Making the Boys, which includes interviews with Crowley; actor Laurence Luckinbill (who played Hank in the original production); playwrights Edward Albee, Michael Cunningham, Paul Rudnick, and Tony Kushner; and Robert Wagner, who worked with Crowley on the television series Hart to Hart. Making the Boys received its world premiere as a work in progress at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival.