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Lincoln Center Theater Presents "The Nance" with Nathan Lane at the Lyceum Theatre
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Lincoln Center Theater Presents "The Nance" with Nathan Lane at the Lyceum Theatre

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Lincoln Center Theater
Under the Direction of Andre Bishop and Bernard Gersten

The Nance
(The Nance Web Page)

A new play by Douglas Carter Beane

Jenni Barber, Andréa Burns, Cady Huffman
Mylinda Hull, Nathan Lane, Geoffrey Allen Murphy
Jonny Orsini, Lewis J. Stadlen

At the
Lyceum Theatre
A Schubert Organization
149 West 45th Street

Directed by Jack O’Brien
Choreography by Joey Pizzi

Sets: John Lee Beatty
Costumes: Ann Roth
Lighting: Japhy Weideman
Sound: Leon Rothenberg
Original Music: Glen Kelly
Orchestrations; Larry Blank
Conductor: David Gursky
Stage Manager: Rolt Smith
Hair/Wigs: David Brian Brown
Casting: Daniel Swee
General Press Agent: Philip Rinaldi
Director of Marketing: Linda Mason Ross
Exec. Director, Development/Planning: Hattie K. Jutagir
Managing Director: Adam Siegel
Production Manager: Jeff Hamlin

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 19, 2013

Nathan Lane sizzles, in his own understated style, as the professional “nance”, which, according to an online dictionary, is “a slur” that “should be avoided, …, used with disparaging intent, …perceived as insulting”. In 1930’s New York burlesque theatres, an actor with effeminate affectations, silly suit, a hat, maybe a flower, was a clownish sort of man, with self-deprecating jokes that drew attention to his mocking of homosexuality. Nathan Lane, a master at nuanced characterization that morphs from humor to pathos in incremental millimeters, presents Chauncey, a full-fledged “nance”, who lives a quietly gay life in 1937 New York, finding encounters at the automat and performing onstage at the Irving Place Theatre. Lincoln Center’s The Nance gives Mr. Lane an expansive opportunity to improvise his staged vignettes with a trio of chorus girls, who play along with the gag and Lewis J. Stadlen as Efram, Chaucey’s straighter stage sidekick. Mr. Stadlen is hugely entertaining and exudes conflicted levels of warmth and distance, as the show twists and turns.

Cady Huffman as Sylvie, Jenni Barber as Joan, and Andréa Burns as Carmen are sensational, wiggling showgirls and great friends for Chauncey. There’s a darker side that magnetizes Chauncey into one special automat, known for gay opportunities, but watch out for undercover cops. Early on, in this new play by Douglas Carter Beane, a hungry, ingénue youth, named Ned (Jonny Orsini), seems to accidentally appear at this automat, hungry from homelessness. Chauncey shares his sandwich and later his bed, as Ned and Chancy become an item. Ned even takes on stage roles, courageously joining the troupe. But, Chauncey’s needy darker side makes him shun the emotional safety and peace of the relationship, in search of new excitement. Simultaneously, Chauncey takes on the law, in his effort to emblazon his virtues and save his right-leaning political reputation. Ned, in turn, takes on Chauncey, and each character regresses to his own primal yearning for what does not exist. Mr. Lane and Mr. Orsini are gripping in this charged, poignant scene. And, when Chauncey is alone on stage, gazing at his adoring fans, Mr. Lane’s masterful acting expands and rivets the eye.

Jack O’Brien has directed for dramatic detail, ornamented with some over the top hilarity. A live band adds musical interludes and accompaniment to Chauncey’s shows, with David Gursky conducting and on piano. John Lee Beatty designed the seedy front and rear Irving Place stage sets, as well as Chauncey’s fanciful flat. Ann Roth’s costumes are magnificent, with the showgirls in offstage-onstage finery. Chauncey’s Irving Place stage costume is iconically vaudevillian, and his home attire is silky 30’s authentic. Japhy Weideman’s lighting shifts from dim flat to some bright stage antics, and Leon Rothenberg’s sound allows Glen Kelly’s music and Larry Blank’s orchestrations to shine, in the midst of the melee. Joey Pizzi’s choreography gets the showgirls kicking and cavorting, in spite of the crowded stage. But, what I came away with was the aching plaintiveness in Mr. Lane’s persona and gestures, in the offstage scenes. The quintessential forlorn comic, a truly virtuosic performance. Kudos to all.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at