GUYS DREAMIN’

Written and performed by Jean-Claude van Itallie, Court Dorsey and Kermit Dunkelberg. Music by and performed by Tony Vacca. Directed by Kim Mancuso and Joel Gluck. Premiered Art Bank Theatre, Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, October, 1996. Performed at Boston Center for the Arts and LaMama ETC, NYC.

FROM REVIEWS OF GUYS DREAMIN’

"An ominous, rapturous rush of sacred gongs draws us into the precise, condensed poetry of the collective creation, Guys Dreamin. This mesmerizing performance, as concise as a haiku, as intriguing as a Zen Koan, presents us with three men in black... The three men move exquisitely... Has a bird died? Are these men angels?

This piece presents riveting confessional images from the perfomers’ lives centering on the death of parents; homosexual and heterosexual epiphanies; and spiritual seeking. These performers give us a fresh paradigm of manhood in the nineties...

Jean-Claude van Itallie’s debut as an actor proved to be the most stunning performance of riveting movement, language and voice... Melinda Given Guttman, New York Theatre Wire.

"At certain rare times, theatre taps into the subconscious and returns to its beginnings in ancient rituals and religions. Guys Dreamin’ is a theatrical experience of this kind...

The events it relates have been familiar since the first person on earth... themes... welcoming the viewer to serve as participant in an archeological dig through buried psyches...

The performance is a narrative about three male lives, told in the first person and amplified by the participation of the others. In turn each man relives the seminal episodes, with an intermingling of characters and issues, such as the death of a parent or the struggle for independence...

The vignettes could stand on their own but... incidents merge to throw light on [each other]... While Guys Dreamin’ retains...spontaneity of its origins in improvisation, it becomes an important piece of play writing infused with the emotions of master actors intensely invested...

...combine song, dance and a physical approach to acting that makes the body a vibrant instrument. A sense of wonder is never far from the overall impression..." Iris Fanger, Boston Herald.

"...The evening’s stagecraft compels... All three are powerful actors, particularly van Itallie, who underplays effectively...Tony Vacca is a sonic wizard, caressing, banging, tapping and striking...Bill Marx, Boston Globe.

"Guys Dreamin’ gives evidence of the real variety of gay and staright men’s lives. The vignettes are mostly about loss, about the passage of life and about death. They are about parents and children, caretaking, sexual experimentation, spiritual searching and caregiving...

More than anything else what unifies the show is the strength of the performers’ commitment to each other...the three actors’ rapport and mutual trust show in how intimate and how physically comfortable they are with each other on stage...seasoned and polished performers... Eric Secoy, Bay Windows, Boston

"Ranging from eastern to western locations and traditions with evocative percussive accompaniment...the three actors...blur the borders between reality and reverie in aseries of vignettes that ply like myth or folk tale.

The situations -— both comic and dramatic —- are simple and universal: men seeking to understand themselves and their world... its characters fortunes are as untidy and mysterious as life itself... It may come as no surprise that the most vivid impressions emerge from acclaimed playwright van Itallie’s poetic vignettes... Jules Becker, The Jewish Advocate, Boston.

EXCERPT GUYS DREAMIN’

Spring, 1962. I’m on a boat leaving Fire Island Pines with thirty silent homosexual men in suits and ties and one woman. That woman is my mother. Our last sight of the island is a line of queens in pastel-colored angora sweaters on the dock, laughing, pointing, shrill and effeminate. I’m sure they’re laughing at me.

   I brought my mother to the Pines to gently introduce her to my homosexual life on a weekday when no-one is around, to show her the house I rent with friends. My mother’s behavior today is unusual. She’ll die in a year at fifty from a brain tumor not yet diagnosed. In the empty house she casually lies on a bare mattress to talk. (I know what masculine intimacies occurred there.) On the boardwalk when she trips and her shoe scoots off, she sits right down on the wood. She is angry at herself, frightened. Putting her shoe on, I assure her everything is alright though we both sense it’s not.

   We lay on the sand together. Today everything is unusual. She tells me: I’m not afraid of death, but of dying...

      (Silence, trailing finger in sand)

I’m not afraid of death, but of dying...

   The silent gay men on the boat balancing briefcases between their legs, must think me the ultimate jerk to have brought my mother to the Pines. I’m glad for Mother’s sake they’re dressed as they are, but I have contempt for them. I won’t allow myself to be attracted. I won’t fantasize them having sex in boxer shorts and socks. I stifle sexual feeling. I don’t breathe. I play dead. We all stare at Long Island Sound as if salvation might come from the water. The motor churns. Churns. Its as if my mother were archetypal Mother who had caught us all jerking off.

   And she, what is she thinking, she who handles everything with words and charm? We’re not in the habit of being silent together unless she’s angry.

   I mentally rehearse openers for later: I’m sorry you had to go through this, Ma, but don’t worry, I’ll make it up to you. I’ll get married, have children and you can just forget about this horrid old boat ride. When we finally disembark, she remains silent. I drive us out of the parking lot into safe suburban Sayville. Perhaps she’ll never mention it. If she doesn’t, I won’t. Suddenly: "If you’re going to be homosexual, be like the ones in the fuzzy sweaters, not like the ones in their suits on the boat."

   Wow. But its too late. She didn’t raise me that way. The word sex was rarely even spoken in our house. I can’t just blow in the wind. I was raised to be uptight.

   Weeks later I find glasses under the bed. Are these my mother’s lenses?

    [This Guys Dreamin’ speech written and originally performed by Jean-Claude van Itallie]

2021©  Jean-Claude van Itallie—All rights reserved