Jonny Orsini, left, and Nathan Lane star in Broadway's "The… (Joan Marcus / Associated…)
“The Nance,” a new play that deals in sexual identity on and offstage, opened Monday at the Lyceum Theater.
Two-time Tony winner Nathan Lane stars as Chauncey Miles, a performer during the dying days of burlesque who plays up effeminate gay stereotypes for a laugh. In the 1930s, straight men usually (and safely) played these stock characters -- known as nances -- except in Chauncey’s case.
The play, written by Douglas Carter Beane (“Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella” “The Little Dog Laughed”), is a balance between Chauncey’s upbeat burlesque and his hidden heartbreak as he tries to reconcile his onstage persona and his offstage love with Ned (Jonny Orsini).
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Directed by Jack O'Brien, “The Nance” marks Lane’s return to Broadway after a two-year absence. The first reviews from New York are in and, while some critics wrote that Beane’s production at times tries to encompass too much, Lane’s return to the stage is a welcome one.
Ben Brantley of the New York Times gave a mixed review, writing that Lane is a "natural for the divided soul that is Chauncey" but even the theater veteran can't resolve “all the disparities" that Beane’s script "asks him to weave together."
USA Today's Elysa Gardner wrote that "The Nance," which deals in ample "racy double entendre" and "naughty gags" offers Lane the "juiciest role that he has had since 2001's 'The Producers'" and Lane's performance as an outcast in the spotlight further secures his status as "one of the stage's brightest treasures.”
The Associated Press' Mark Kennedy wrote that O'Brien directs the production with "subtlety and tenderness" and John Lee Beatty's rotating set "brilliantly" explores the "gulf between public and private life" that Chauncey strives to connect.
Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News writes that under O’Brien’s "assured" direction, Lane is "funny, sad and touching" and Orsini makes an "auspicious" Broadway debut. He added that Beane's script doesn't always deliver on its mix of social and personal commentary, but after a series of Broadway shows based on "dysfunctional and sitcom-style families, 'The Nance' is a welcome departure."
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