5/8/2013 10:01 AM
IN TROUSERS is not as celebrated as FALSETTOS. Perhaps it appears aimless in comparison. While wildly imaginative, FALSETTOS is easy to follow. IN TROUSERS moves around time and space like a dream, and its lyrics utilize more metaphor and less colloquial language than FALSETTOS’. IN TROUSERS contains gorgeous, but few, stage directions, and requires a great director to make sense of it. FALSETTOS is more concerned with its audience, while IN TROUSERS is more concerned with artfulness. The jury is still out on which makes for better theatre, but I believe that IN TROUSERS is the frankest, saddest, and most beautiful coming-out play ever written.
I partly miss the 1978 version of IN TROUSERS when encountering Samuel French’s revised version. The old version had a sense of sloppiness to it, as if it was not quite sure what it wanted to be—precisely what Marvin is going through. The published version is still muddled, but new songs were added to make sense of things, and most of them do not live up to the authenticity of the original tunes. One new song, “Packing Up,” does live up, however, and contains some of the show’s most moving lyrics. Another strong addition is “I’m Breaking Down,” which is in both IN TROUSERS and FALSETTOS, but fits better as a discovery in IN TROUSERS, than as a woe-is-me moment in FALSETTOS.
The frantic style of IN TROUSERS embodies what coming out of the closet feels like, while a play like TAKE ME OUT presents what coming out looks like. (Similarly, RABBIT HOLE presents what losing a child looks like, but GOD'S EAR gets at what it feels like.) It informs FALSETTOS to learn that Marvin is emotionally unstable. That stunning lyric, “Marvin always gets the things he wants, except the things he wants,” gives new meaning to the Marvin of FALSETTOS, who “wants it all,” but ends up with nothing.