When playwright William Finn wrote IN TROUSERS, premiering off-Broadway in 1979, he began the opening chapter of the “Marvin Trilogy” – later revised and rewritten with collaborator James Lapine into “The March of the Falsettos” and “Falsettoland.” Finally, the parts coalesced into the whole; and a two-act “Falsettos” came to Broadway in 1992. From a groundbreaking tale of a 1970’s closeted gay man struggling to be true to himself, the theme behind IN TROUSERS gradually entered the mainstream of American life. As the American culture matured, so too did secrets about gender identity come “out of the closet.” IN TROUSERS is definitely the first act in a cultural revolution.
Marvin is a married man with a child. Then, ten years into his marriage, he makes a profound and life-changing discovery. He realizes that he prefers men over women – but the need to come to terms with this awareness only triggers new problems in his life. What should he do with this insight? Does he wreck his happy family life or follow his new-found inclinations? Does he turn his back on the mother of his children and seek new bed partners? In order to explore his sexuality, Marvin (Braxton Molinaro) begins to review his relationships with the three most important women in his life, his wife (Tal Fox), his high school sweetheart (Lea Madda), and his English teacher and first lover (Michelle Lane). What has he learned? Is there a “right” answer to his questions?
Director Ryan O’Connor does an excellent job of balancing the existential issues inherent in Marvin’s conflict with the reality of his situation (especially in the 1970’s, when homosexuality was a well-hidden secret). O’Connor has a good grasp of the conundrum in the tale, as well as compassion for the people that any decision will impact. The ensemble cast does an excellent job of pinpointing the multiple struggles which arise, all the while singing their hearts out. But author William Finn was also able to appreciate the dark humor underlying the story. Happy and sad intermingle and intertwine to produce an integrated account of struggle, stress, and some laughs in an impossible situation.
IN TROUSERS is gifted with a trio of musicians who keep the music flowing – piano (music director Jake Anthony), percussion (Joe Martone), and bass (Ethan Chiampas). Marvin’s story is told through song, with book, music, and lyrics by William Finn. Lyrics are especially clever as Finn dissects the thoughts and feelings of his four principals who telegraph their every emotion with voice, facial expression, and body language. Kudos to the cast. Be prepared for a music fest performed by seven talented artists. Corey Lynn Howe’s set is fluid as time and place ebb and flow. Costume designer Michael Mullen has fun with the real and symbolic movement of the piece. IN TROUSERS is a highly entertaining play told through music and movement.
IN TROUSERS runs through November 3, 2019, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. on Sundays. The Lounge Theatre is located on 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90038. Tickets are $30. For information and reservations, go online.