Dallas — In today’s Hollywood, there are a lot more openly gay actors because of progressive times, plus the expansion of work opportunities in TV, film and streaming services. But really, for the major A-listers it’s not much different than in the 1950’s. Coming out for a movie star back then meant career suicide. It probably wouldn’t be much different now if a huge matinee idol, someone like Bradley Cooper, came out.
In Boomer Tyro is Coming Home, one of the top two plays in Uptown Players’ first Pride Write One-Act Play competition, Bruce R. Coleman plays with the idea of being not just gay in the 1950s, but famous and gay. Part of Uptown Players Pride Performing Arts Festival, this play and the other winner, Stigmatic, will be voted on by audience members for the best work. The winner receives $250.
Coleman has it in the bag.
To say it’s merely well-crafted is to not give credit for what seems to be Coleman’s ultimate goal: Paying homage to Tennessee Williams, a gay writer whose plays were filled with gay subtext, which was often stymied by Hollywood (see the film of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof).
Set in 1955 in a Galveston hotel owned by Rebie (Andi Allen), the characters await the return of Boomer Tyro (Aaron Jakaboski), a local boy who became a Hollywood star thanks to his James Dean-like sex appeal. Rebie’s daughter Raye Anne (Zoe Kerr) dated Boomer, but wonders why he never made the moves on her. Her brother, Porter (Doak Rapp), knows why. So does nosey florist Linus Cachette (Paul J. Williams).
Turns out, Boomer and Porter had a steamy relationship. Will that continue, or will Boomer marry Raye Anne and straighten up his life for the sake of movie stardom? Think back on the careers of hunky Hollywood actors like Tab Hunter, Rock Hudson and Montgomery Clift—would we even know their names had they come out at the height of fame?
Coleman populates the play with delicious Southernisms (“It’s as humid as the underside of a Scotsman’s kilt”), most of them spoken by uber-witty Linus. Williams, channeling Paul Lynde and Truman Capote, revels in the language. Coleman gifts him with Tennessee Williams-esque phrases like “scandalous ruinations.”
Directed by Dennis Canright, this is a case of smart playwriting and great casting. It all comes together beautifully for a show that induces tears from laughter and the range of the feels. Comic timing goddess Allen and Williams are an A+ comedy team, and Williams’ delivery of Linus’ final speech is devastating. Raye Ann is not sure how to react to it all, and Kerr finds all of those mixed emotions in her facial expressions alone.
Rapp has really grown as an actor, thanks to Jeff Swearingen’s direction of him for years at Fun House Theatre and Film. Here he shows more range than I’ve seen from him. Jakaboski looks the part, and is coolly aloof, adding to the smolder effect.
Boomer Tyro is a success as an engaging one-act and as a tribute to one of the greatest Southern, and American, writers.
Plus, Coleman isn’t afraid to give into the fact that a Uranus joke is always funny.