Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Theater Review: The Nance

A Tender Look at a Sad Character
By Lauren Yarger
Nathan Lane gives a tender performance in Douglas Carter Beane’s newest play, The  Nance getting a run by Lincoln Center Theater on Broadway.
In burlesque, a “nance” was a male performer who pretended to be gay. For Chauncey Miles (Lane), art imitates life. He really is gay, and while this is known to his fellow performers and theater friends, Efram (Lewis J. Stadlen), Sylvie (Cady Huffman), Joan (Jennie Barber), Rose (Mylinda Hull) and Carmen (Andrea Burns), the lifestyle is not considered acceptable by 1937 society or by the cops and politicians who constantly raid and shut down burlesque houses like New York’s Irving Place where they work.
The situation is made even more tenuous when Chauncey picks up a down-on-his-luck younger boy at the local automat (a meet-up where “the boys meet the boys.") Ned (Jonny Orsini) is hungry, dirty and used to having to exchange sexual favors to ear his keep, so Chauncey’s heartfelt kindness is different. Chauncey also is surprised to discover that the boy isn’t straight, simply turning gay tricks to get by. Ned moves in to Chauncey’s bachelor pad and the two begin a relationship.  Eventually Ned is roped into performing with the burlesque show. (John Lee Beatty’s fabulous set rotates to take us from the very cool automat to the theater, and angels so that we can see what is taking place on stage and backstage simultaneously.)
Actual vaudeville routines are included throughout the script and Lane’s comic chops are put to good use. He also gives a deeply personal portrait of a man who know what he wants, but who is unable to get it. The tale is as sad as it is funny. For some reason, Beane scripts Chauncey as a Republican, however, always supportive of the party and of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, despite his crusade to rid New York of burlesque. It’s not believable, especially when Chauncey decides to protest the censorship by performing forbidden material on stage and starts calling a certain politician’s motives into question.
Ann Roth provides the costumes for this period piece (listed as a comedy --should be categorized as a dark comedy and should also have a **MATURE advisory) for which Lane gives one of his most moving portrayals, directed by Jack O'Brien.

The Nance runs through Aug. 11 at the Lyceum Theatre, 149 West 45th St., NYC. Tickets and info:

Christians might also like to know:
-- Scantily clad actors (and racy costumes)
-- Nudity
-- Homosexuality
-- Homosexual activity
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Language
-- Sexual situations

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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