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The dramatic story of a 1950s war hero, anti-Communist activist, and closeted gay man

Wednesday, Dec 11 2002
At the time of this eloquent one-act play, in 1956, Dr. Thomas Dooley was a rising public figure in the United States -- a young, well-decorated Navy lieutenant who had written a book on Vietnam and convinced his country that fighting the rise of Communism there was a worthy and liberal-minded thing to do. (Dooley was "the salesman of what the Communists could do in French Indochina," according to the narrator.) He was also gay. Playwright Harry Cronin imagines what might have happened on the night Dooley was entrapped in a hotel room by his own paranoid Navy superiors. The young lieutenant meets a mysterious, handsome kid in a New York bar, and their conversation in the hotel has all the romance and tension of a 1950s espionage film. Their discussion covers everything -- Dooley's career, his Catholicism, his subterranean homosexual desire -- so that by the end of the show we have a complete picture of the man's life. Cronin's dialogue is dramatic and smart, performed with a refreshing lack of pretension by Nick Sholley (as Dooley) and Jayson Matthews (as Carroll, the mysterious kid), and the direction by Alan Quismorio is sharp. Cronin is both an accomplished playwright and a Catholic professor-in-residence at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, and his political intelligence turns out to be just as refreshing as the performances. You won't find so much unselfconscious honesty about the era before Stonewall and Vietnam in the work of any now-trendy gay playwright, from Kushner on down, or so much frankness about gays in the military in that of any Catholic writer (barring Andrew Sullivan, who doesn't write plays). Go see it.


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