May 7, 2013

Don's Party: Mostly Heterosexual Boys in the Band

Don's Party (1976), based on the long-running play by David Williamson, is set on the night of the 1969 Federal Election in Australia, where the conservative, establishment Labor Party is expected to win.

Schoolteacher Don (gay actor John Hargreaves, left) and his wife Kath invite some friends over to celebrate the victory.  They are:

1. Alcoholic professor Mal and his bitter wife Jenny

2. Conservative dentist Evan and his artist wife Kerry.

3. Sex-obsessed Cooley (Harold Hopkins, left, lately of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo) and his giggly girlfriend Susan.

4. Liberal-supporter  Simon and his wife Jody

5. Working-class Mack (gay actor Graham Kennedy), who has just left his wife.

Gradually it becomes clear that the Liberal party will win, sending Australia plummeting into a snake-pit of drugs and free love, so the depressed partygoers begin drinking heavily.

And the gloves come off.

Men snipe at each other about their failed ambitions.  Women snipe about how small their husbands' penises are and how they're likely to be gay.

Hidden homoerotic desires come out.  There are attempted gay pick-ups.  There is full frontal nudity. By the end of the evening, everyone hates everyone.

It's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf meets The Boys in the Band. 

To be fair, there's no actual gay sex -- heterosexual machinations predominate -- and there are more naked ladies than naked men.  But still, Don's Party provides a glimpse into the 1970s establishment anxieties over the gay potential of the sexual revolution

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