A&E: Empire Stage Play Bridges Generational Divides

The cast of “Boys of a Certain Age” at Empire Stage includes, left to right: Michael Vadnal, Luis Albaer, Gisbert Heuer and Matthew Salas. Credit: Joseph Long.

There’s an old adage: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

These sage words certainly ring true in Dan Fingerman’s “Boys of a Certain Age,” a play receiving its regional premiere Oct. 3 – 27 at Empire Stage in Fort Lauderdale.

The play, winner of multiple awards at the 2016 Fresh Fruit Festival in New York, the city’s gay Fringe Festival, tells the story of two Hebrew school classmates, Ira and Larry. Decades earlier, they chose different paths: 

Ira came out and moved to the city; Larry got married, had a family and came out later in life. Now, they're spending one memorable weekend together on Fire Island with Larry's son Bryan, Ira's nephew Christopher and a “whole lot of gay history.”

For director Jeffrey Bruce, the play reinforces the ties that bind different generations.

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“The two older guys really set the stage for the younger ones to have a much easier transition to the truth of themselves,” Bruce explained. “Clichés are based on truth—and it sounds like a cliché—but, I always say it’s tough to be a role model. To see how far we’ve come and the normalcy of homosexuality in major cities, plays like this are very educational and funny as hell, and help people who have not had the opportunity to have been enlightened in their pasts.”

Bruce brings a unique perspective to this show. While still a young actor, he toured the country in Mort Crowley’s “The Boys in the Band,” which he credits as “essentially the first gay play.”

“There is a normalcy now to gay people in the theater and in this play, we have four wonderful characters, all likeable, sympathetic, empathetic and very representative of people my age and the new kids who are just coming up in the gay world,” Bruce said.

The director also praises playwright Fingerman with exploring themes that remain relevant to all audiences, both gay and straight.

“Dan was a mentalist of sorts. Even though he has written a play about four gay guys, people who are straight and cisgender will learn a lot because the themes of love and acceptance apply to everyone. They are men who happen to be gay, as opposed to being gay men. There’s not a soul alive that won’t be able to relate.”

A strong cast makes Bruce’s job even easier. The cast includes Michael Vadnal (Larry), Gisbert Heuer (Ira), Luis Albaer (Bryan) and Matthew Salas (Christopher).

According to Bruce, the cast blocked the entire show and conducted the first full run-though after just two rehearsals.

“They’re simply an amazing cast performing an amazing piece of theater,” he concluded.

Dan Fingerman’s “Boys of a Certain Age” will be presented Oct. 3 – 27 at Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler Dr. in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are $35 at EmpireStage.com.