‘The Nance’ is emotional tightrope

The Nance Lyceum Theatre
Nathan Lane, left, performs as Chauncey Miles in “The Nance.”

Living in 1930s New York City was akin to living in a pressure cooker; or at least, that’s the impression you get from “The Nance,” starring tour-de-force Nathan Lane under the direction of Jack O’Brien. In this show, produced by Lincoln Center and running on Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre, Lane portrays Chauncey Miles, a “nance” performer — that is, a foppish, silly gay caricature who uses double entendre and innuendo to make fun of homosexual culture as part of a burlesque cabaret. But his success and fame would only be ideal if only he weren’t a nance in real life — that is, a formerly closeted but increasingly overt gay man who begins to feel comfortable in his own skin just when the political climate starts scowling at anyone who dares to participate in such a “sick” scene, much less celebrate it onstage.

Because of the cognitive dissonance that Chauncey Miles is forced to exist within, he acts out by pushing away friends and loved ones with self-defacing humor and acerbic barbs. Beneath his glib veneer, he seems to be a man desperately unsure of himself and craving acceptance — not, of course, from like-minded “fairies” or his extremely patient boyfriend (Jonny Orsini), but rather from the most abusive and unlikely corners of the New York City social scene, such as the conservative Republican party under the tight-fisted reelection campaign of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. He is the tragic poster boy of the self-hating homosexual, and when he isn’t being laughed at onstage he doesn’t seem to understand his place in the world.

Of course, masterful playwright Douglas Carter Beane is going to throw every conflict of morality and motive at our unstable protagonist until he’s dizzy from constantly turning a blind eye toward where the wind is blowing. The play amps up Chauncey’s external persecution and internal distress until he’s in a bind tighter than LaGuardia’s crackdown on “deviance.”

“The Nance” seems to be constantly and inevitably veering toward disaster, even when things seem good on the surface — but you can’t look away. The only thing keeping the growing sense of dread from strangling your windpipe are the ingeniously juxtaposed scenes of vaudevillian burlesque comedy that grow increasingly darker to complement the show’s dark undertones. Still, there’s room to laugh right up until the seemingly inevitable end.

Could Chauncey have made choices to steer his fate in another direction or were the world’s injustices stacked against him? It’s one of the questions that “The Nance” brilliantly raises and leaves lingering through the last haunting tableau. And it couldn’t be more perfectly timed with the past month’s sociopolitical tensions or exuberant pride celebrations. Thankfully, Lane is extending his performances through August — but there are only a handful of weeks left, so be sure to see him own this career-topping role before the curtain comes down for good.

‘The Nance’
Extended through Aug. 11
Lyceum Theatre
149 W. 45th Street
$37-$132,
www.lct.org

 



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Newest java joint in bastion of hipness is…

Little may represent the change the neighborhood is undergoing right now like the arrival of the first Starbucks. The chain which is ubiquitous in Manhattan, opened a Williamsburg store at…

National

Black and white are the new orange at…

By Brendan O'Brien(Reuters) - Black and white are the new orange in a Michigan county where the sheriff has made a wardrobe change for jail…

National

Traps set after reports of giant snake on…

New Jersey animal control workers have set traps to snare a reported 20-foot-long serpent slithering through the waters of Lake Hopatcong.

Local

NYPD: Stroller carrying 2-year-old rolls onto Queens subway…

A 2-year-old girl in a stroller rolled onto subway tracks in Queens on Monday morning, police said.

Entertainment

‘The Leftovers’ recap: Season 1, Episode 4, ‘B.J.…

Last week’s episode of “The Leftovers” was apparently a fluke, because this week’s episode returns to focusing on the Garveys and it is so boring.…

Movies

Interview: Luc Besson says 'Lucy' is very different…

Filmmaker Luc Besson talks about his new film "Lucy," how it's different than "Limitless" and his crazy first conversation with Egyptian actor Amr Waked.

Music

Weezer releases first new song since 2010

Weezer releases "Back to the Shack," their first new song in almost six years.

Movies

Benedict Cumberbatch plays a different kind of genius…

The man known worldwide for his portrayal of London's eccentric private detective Sherlock Holmes is trading his Belstaff coat for tweed this fall. Benedict Cumberbatch…

NFL

'Vicktory dogs' travel road to rehabilitation seven years…

Of the dozens of dogs groomed by Bad Newz Kennels, 48 were rescued and 22 of the pit bull terriers have emerged at Best Friends Animal Society.

MLB

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according…

Yankees looking at trade for Cliff Lee, according to report

NFL

Giants lineman Chris Snee to retire: Reports

The Giants report to training camp on Tuesday, but Chris Snee may not be there when they do.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony talks about his charity work in…

As he is used to doing every year, NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony is going to visit Puerto Rico to do work for his foundation.

Tech

RocketSkates let users roll with a motor

Los Angeles company Acton has raised funds on Kickstarter to roll out a nifty alternative – motor-powered "RocketSkates."

Tech

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony becomes a tech entrepreneur

He's been an All-Star, an Olympian, and a celebrity spokesperson. Now NBA player Carmelo Anthony is adding the position "tech entrepreneur" to his resume. Along…

Tech

Ulises 1 is the world's first singing satellite

A group of artists and engineers in Mexico have unveiled Ulises 1, the world's first opera-singing satellite.

Home

Wallscape on a budget

Skip the wallpaper and ombre an accent wall instead.