Everyone -- certainly every gay person -- knows that in gay history and hagiography the 1969 Stonewall uprising looms large. On a hot June night -- that day gay icon Judy Garland's funeral took place in New York -- a diverse group of gay men resisted a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, a mob run gay bar. Many were drag queens and many were Black and Latino. Martin Duberman has written the classic history of Stonewall. There have been documentary films as well as British film maker Nigel Finch's fictional account. Now we have Ike Holter's absorbing play, HIT THE WALL, powerfully directed by Eric Hoff, an import from Chicago"s Garage Rep, a subsidiary of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company.
In ninety minutes, with ten actors and three musicians, we get a cross section of the participants in the Stonewall rebellion. Each character is a representative of a segment of the rioters: a timid drag queen in mourning for her beloved Judy and the draft dodger who falls in love with him/her; a young Black and Latino who hang out daily on a tenement stoop on Christopher Street; a young man on his first trip to a gay bar; a butch lesbian and a Black lesbian who has become a political activist. These characters are, of necessity types, but each has been given his/her own language, from rhyming jive to eloquent laments to political exhortation. One actor plays a typical affluent middle class man who thinks he has a right to have sex with any you man he encounters and who thinks the Stonewall riots are a big mistake, and another plays a distillation of the brutal police who raided the bar as they had raided gay gathering places for decades. One accepts this group of types and stereotypes because the language is so vivid and the direction so exciting. Eric Hoff has used every inch of the small Barrow Street Theatre acting area for staging that is extremely effective. There are moments of beautifully choreographed wild abandon -- the dancing in the Stonewall Inn before the blinding light that signals the police raid and the subsequent rioting out in the street. The music ranges from sixties folk to hard rock. The cast is uniformly excellent. This is exciting theater. It's also important to give young theatergoers some sense of a crucial moment in gay history.
HIT THE WALL. Barrow Street Theatre. March 14, 2013.