The pop pastiche "In Gay Company" at the Columbia Station Cabaret Theater is a clever insider's revue about gay life styles that is billed as "a show for almost everyone."
The first offering by the National Cabaret Theater Company, the revue opens with a wistful ode to the days "when it was really fun to be gay," and in these days of the AIDS epidemic, the lyrics have an ironic bite. The five players reminisce about "the brash allure of it/ When we were not so sure of it . . . what was merely latent/ Now's become too blatant . . . when S&M were merely sizes . . . and Judy Garland wasn't yet our patron saint."
Although the melodies are forgettable, they are an adequate vehicle for composer/lyricist Frederick Silver's wit. First produced in Manhattan in 1971, the revue has aged well and avoids stereotypes. The show's drag queen, for instance, turns out to be a decoy cop. The producers have injected lots of local references for good measure.
The material, a series of 16 fast-paced vignettes, is dipped in double-entendre with a strictly homosexual stance but stays within the bounds of good taste. Standout numbers include the "Beginner's Guide to Cruising," "The Fireman's Song," in which four firemen fly into a panic at the thought of "a fairy in the firehouse," and "Phantom of the Opera," which spotlights catty chatter at intermission at the Metropolitan Opera.
All of the performers seem comfortable with the material, and the voices are enjoyable, if not outstanding. Many of the numbers seem more affecting because they are sung by non-glamorous real people on a small and spartan stage.
Ray Chesnick Jr., Brian Donnelly, Gary Johnson and Mark Jolin prove themselves adept comic actors, especially in "You Really Ought to Get Married," in which they become a platoon of parents urging marriage on their bachelor sons. And they render emotions sincerely when they step up for the ballads.
Melissa Berman shows off her dusky alto to good effect on "I'm in Love With a Boy," in which she pines over a charming young man who turns out to be gay, and "The WASP Blues," a lip-biting lament over having boring "bluish blood" when it's become much more chic to be ethnic.
Accompanist John Edward Niles bashes bombastically at the piano, but fortunately, he's amusing to watch, and his frequent clinkers don't step on the words.
Each member gets a solo turn in a bittersweet suite about the pleasures and pathos of the one-night stand, which is moving without being maudlin.
While the first act is often facetious, the lyrics brush with real concerns--loneliness, emptiness and the fragility of relationships--most notably in Donnelly's resigned "It's Closing Time," about an encounter between the last two men left at the bar.
IN GAY COMPANY. By Frederick Silver. Directed by John Moran; set, Dixie Kennett; costumes, Mickey McKnight; musical direction, John Edward Niles. With Melissa Berman, Ray Chesnick Jr., Brian Donnelly, Gary Johnson, Mark Jolin and John Edward Niles. At the Columbia Station Cabaret Theater, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through Aug. 27.