Michael is throwing a birthday party for the chronically tardy Harold (Zachary Quinto), bringing together seven members of their extended group. But a wild card emerges in the form of Alan (Brian Hutchison), an old college pal of Michael’s who happens to be in town, sounds distressed and wants to drop by, which Michael fears would mean outing himself.
The drinks flow, and so do the secrets, including the strained relationship between the promiscuous Larry (Andrew Rannells) and Hank (Tuc Watkins), the former’s interactions with Michael’s friend Donald (Matt Bomer), and resentments involving Emory (Robin de Jesus) and Bernard (Michael Benjamin Washington), who face racism as well as homophobia.
Director Joe Mantello employs a few devices to open up the story a bit, including visual flashbacks during a cruel game that Michael introduces during the final act.
There’s only so much, however, that can be done on that score, and fortunately, the cast — anchored by Parsons and Quinto, whose exchanges drip with venom — admirably holds the screen. In addition, with Broadway theaters shuttered, the sensation of having a stage-like experience proves welcome in a way Netflix and the producers couldn’t have imagined when this screen revival was conceived.
Still, it’s helpful to contemplate how this sort of raw dialogue sounded in ’68 to absorb this movie not just as a showcase for the performers, but a reflection on all that’s happened — and what still hasn’t — since Crowley and company first struck up the “Band.”
“The Boys in the Band” premieres Sept. 30 on Netflix.