Finally, the production of Streamers (at left) that played at the Huntington last season has opened in New York, at the Roundabout. The Times gives it something close to a rave, as I did a year ago. Yet another case (Mauritius comes to mind) in which Boston's print reviewers have been in disagreement with those in the Big Apple. It's hard to ignore, however, the fact that reviewer Charles Isherwood is a gay male (and Streamers deals with gays in the military), while the reviewers who put the production down in Boston were all women. Tellingly, one of the Huntington production's other major supporters was Art Hennessey, a straight guy who's spent time in the military. So can only people with a stake in this particular conflict perceive the power of this play? Perhaps; but I'd hate to diss an entire gender because of the performance of two or three of its members (I've talked to other women who perceived the power of Streamers, and of course, former drama critic Bill Marx sniffed at the production, too).
I'd also like to think that I'm able to perceive the difference between strong shows about women (In the Continuum) and weak ones (Martha Mitchell Calling) based on their artistic rather than political attributes. And indeed, the political content of Streamers ranked high in the Boston reviewers' remarks - in that they felt its politics were passé. Louise Kennedy wrote: "What struck an earlier audience as stark and powerful drama may leave us shaking our heads at its stereotypes and melodrama - just as, no doubt, some acclaimed works of our own time will come to seem like risible cliches . . . this play, in this production, at this time, simply does not work." I'm laughing as I re-read that; did Kennedy really imply that Streamers was a "risible cliché"? Apparently gay men and military men don't think so (and maybe certain married couples in California wouldn't think so, either).
Of course there is an argument against Streamers (which, to be fair, Marx half-made in his usual pissy way); it's structured poorly, its speeches are sometimes overwritten, and its coda needs editing. But a lot of durable plays have their technical weaknesses (even Hamlet is among them, and don't get me started on Tennessee Williams). Let's hope New York can perceive what Boston's reviewers could not, and gives Streamers the attention it deserves.