Starting with the third act of The Glen by Peter B. Hodges, the play starts to resemble M. Butterfly,” the 1988 Pulitzer-winning drama based on the true story of the disgraced French diplomat and convicted spy Bernard Boursicot. What makes this so strange is the playwright states “The idea for The Glen grew out of my decades-long friendship with Glenn Loney and a desire to explore the question of what it might have been like to grow up as an adopted child on a small farm in an isolated part of Northern California in the thirties and forties all the while dreaming of becoming a professor and critic of the arts in New York.
We follow a rebellious farm boy named Dale (Matthew Dalton Lynch), adopted as an infant by Myrtle Olsen (Elizabeth Bove) a strict mother and a sweet but ineffectual father (Len Rella). The time is the 1930s and 40s in Grass Valley, California. Dale has always been “attracted to men,” but keeps it silent. Moving back and forth in time, we see how Dale in 1951 is drafted into the Army and becomes the target for Major Hogge (Thomas Grube). When he catches him coming onto the librarian (Daniel Stompor) he is falsely accused of insubordination and claims the librarian is a female, not a male. Thanks to his council (Kerry Mantle), he is let off and sent to Germany. In Berlin he meets Priscilla (a wonderful Daniel Stompor) and begins an affair with a possible spy, but also a transvestite, though he claims not to have known. His ultimate confrontation with his mother and the secret she has hidden from him all his life, ends the journey, right when it was really beginning.
Prior to moving forward Dale is accused in kindergarten of being a fairy. Forms bonds with Noel (Barry Anderson), his cousin and Indian Joe (Kerry Mantle) who turn out to be a man who sleeps with other men and another transvestite.
For a time and era where being a homosexual was was declared to be a mental illness, it is interesting that so many men in this play are. According to everything I have ever read until the end of World War II the topic of homosexuality was almost completely invisible and was condemned on all fronts. All of the major religions considered it sinful and immoral, psychiatrists considered it a serious mental disorder that needed to be treated, and nearly every state had laws criminalizing it, many calling for prison terms for “convicted” homosexuals. yet this is not dealt with in this play. Also in Indian tribes, transexuals were considered two-spirit persons and revered as shaman’s, so for me that role of Indian Joe made no sense.
The actors do exceedingly well especially Daniel Stompor, Kerry Mantle, Barry Anderson and Matthew Dalton Lynch.
Hodges also directs his work, which is unwise. He needs fresh eyes to help him rearrange, cut and flesh out what he has here. Moving backwards and forwards, makes the play confusing instead of just telling the story. Also I don’t get the title as this story is really about a mother and her son. That is where the most powerful moments come. There are so many scenes that just seem unnecessary, where others needed to give us more information.
There is definitely a play inside The Glen but it needs to be fleshed out.
Shetler Studios (244 West 54th Street – 12thfloor), Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, February 7th, 8th, 9th, 14th, 15th and 16th at 8:00 pm with a matinee on Sunday, February 10th at 2:00 pm.