Watermark’s 2015 Orlando Fringe Reviews: 1969: Stonewall

By : Samantha Rosenthal
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Bravo, I must say! Written and starring John Ryan, who plays Michael, “1969: Stonewall” was one of my favorite Fringe shows so far this year.

The play takes you back to 1969 in New York City right before, during and after the Stonewall Riots. With inside jokes and “gay humor” galore, the show had the audience laughing at all the right times. The show even had photos and footage from those years on the background screen which was an excellent visual supplement.

The cast included John Ryan as Michael, who is gay and is one the perspectives the story of the year of 1969 is told through. Michael was a moving character, especially when he retold when his parents tried to do electroconvulsive therapy, better known today as conversion therapy. He was comical and deep all at the same time, and Ryan really embraces and makes you feel included in the story.

Miles Berman plays Anita, the drag queen who was an awesome embodiment of the pent-up anger and frustration by many LGBTs in the late 1960s. Not only was she fabulously dressed but she had a fierce attitude, which Berman captured very well. I know for sure, I would not have wanted to be the cab driver Miss. Anita took a brick to.

The “progressive” couple from Ohio, Pam played by Jessica Hoehn and her husband played by Frank Casado (who also played all the other extra male characters), added a touch of humor throughout the entire play. They claimed to be all about the “progressive movements” of the time and “liberal,” even supporting the homosexuals as they said in the play. The humor of Hoehn’s character is contagious, where at one point Pam claims “you haven’t lived till you swam in an integrated pool.” This shows just how much the play really captured the different essences and moods toward the different movements of the time— women’s’ liberation, the Civil Rights Movement and the gay rights movement.

But my two favorite characters, by far, were Janine Klein’s character of April and Josh Lefkowitz’ character or her son Elliott. They were the heart and soul of the play, to me at least. April was the typical New York mother; she loves her family and will do anything for it. You also really see her character grow. Elliott, who is a young boy who starts to learn he’s gay and is different than most boys his age, develops into a boy who goes from being confused and a bit scared of how his parents will be to becoming involved in the gay rights movement. When Elliott puts that kimono on and starts singing Ethel Merman tunes from Gypsy, I damn near lost it. Lefkowitz portrayed the confused yet flashy Elliott in words I can’t describe.

If you’re debating on seeing this show, do it. The ticket is worth every dollar. Directed by Michael Wanzie, with Catherine Goodison as the assistant director and Tara Kromer as the production manager, the show was a great portrayal of the year that changed everything—1969.

“1969: Stonewall” is playing at the Gold Venue at the Orlando Museum of Art.

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