DANCER FROM THE DANCE, About Face Theatre. Twenty-one years ago this corrosively romantic novel by "Andrew Holleran" seemed to many "The Gay Gatsby," a furtive tale of sexual obsession and despair. Its antihero--a young sex god named Malone--gives up law to become the idol of Fire Island. But he remains a small-town dreamer even as his irresistible looks and lack of an inner life draw him into an abusive relationship with a self-hating Italian stallion. Corrupting Malone as Lord Henry did Dorian Gray is Sutherland, a pill-popping, name-dropping, matchmaking sybarite whose wit falls far short of Oscar's ("If Helen Keller can get through life, so can we"). Sutherland turns his pretty protege into a "professional faggot"--which means a glamorous death will soon follow.
Director Eric Rosen's adaptation is relentlessly faithful to the novel's demonic raptures, depicting a rootlessness that connects Manhattan discos to Long Island summer homes to apartment stoops. About Face's supple ensemble effectively suggests the dangerous freedom of the supposed glory days before AIDS. But the evening's brittle badinage, disco posing, and simulated sex evoke an archaeological dig rather than sultry eroticism. Nathan Hilding and Bruch Reed nicely convey the poignancy of Malone's frustrated lovers, and as mean queen Sutherland the scenery-munching Nathan Rankin practically spits his lines across the street. But Jeff Buelterman conveys only Malone's battered innocence and none of his supposed head-snapping gorgeousness. In this work, ordinary fantasies just won't do. --Lawrence Bommer