It arises because of a scene set in Washington Square Park, where two young gay gender studies majors at Vassar are interviewing two longtime partners, Aaron and Scoop (Don Amendolia and David Greenspan), to "find out what it was like to be part of the pre-Stonewall oppressed and non-liberated generation." But the younger men, expecting and desiring tales of protest, anger, and outrage about living life in secret, aren't prepared for Aaron and Scoop's perspective of living a rich, full life as its own reward.
"It was different then," Scoop admits. "We didn't make so much of a fuss. Maybe we should have."
"Are you telling us we fought the police at Stonewall and petitioned the legislatures for change when we didn't have to?" one of the young men retorts. "That we screamed our guts out so fewer men would die from AIDS but we shouldn't have bothered?"
"We're very glad you did," Scoop replies gently. The interview has by now collapsed into the generation gap. Scoop, however, can't help but remain puzzled. "We're a couple of non-threatening, assimilated homosexuals. We're out, we're proud and nobody notices."
That line imparts McNally's message about the ubiquity and romantic beauty of gay love far better than the rest of the play manages. The show is about exactly this conflict, between the legendary views of history - as seen through both close-up and wide-angle lenses - and the way it was actually lived. But lacking the distillation of content and full-on confrontation between those who experienced it and those who only think they understand, the other scenes don't provide the same satisfying punch. Sitting through Some Men if you didn't survive the eras it depicts is a lot like watching home movies of someone else's vacation.
But despite Trip Cullman's driving direction and the elegance of Mark Wendland's scenic design (the 2007 wedding is held at the Waldorf), Some Men is a repetitive, unfocused, and occasionally confusing two and a half hours. Encompassing 84 years (including poorly realized digressions to the 1922 Hamptons and 1932 Harlem) and over 50 characters, the play doesn't want for breadth, but never digs far enough into these men's unique lives to make a case for them as subjects worthy of examination.
By revealing so little of these men's personalities, McNally forces them to become walking and talking symbols; as such, they impart little bite into their scenes, and few linger in the memory once they've said their piece and vanish again. Each performer's being double, quadruple, or quintuple cast does not aid in heightening his individuality, but it's unlikely this play would be appreciably clearer even with a cast of dozens.
This is especially odd in the case of McElroy and Weller, who've served with often magnetic distinction in other shows, but here tend to reduce their characterizations to bland, broad strokes. One can't really fault them, though, for failing to hold up their portions of this picaresque. While McNally has achieved his basic goal of highlighting and celebrating the vagaries, inconsistencies, and flat-out contradictions of love between men, he has not ignited the spark needed to transform all these vignettes into an epic.
Perhaps that's neither possible nor necessary. McNally's point, much like Aaron and Scoop's in the Washington Square Park scene, is that everything need not be world-changing; the ordinary can sometimes be extraordinary enough. Some Men, unfortunately, is not.