Broadway and television actor Christopher J. Hanke sees his new theatrical project, “Perfect Arrangement,” as an opportunity to “dive into a scary moment in [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] history” that was well before his time.
Still, Hanke is quick to clarify that the play, which opens at the Duke on 42nd Street in New York on Oct. 15 and is being produced by Primary Stages, is very much an ensemble comedy that offers “tons of laughs.” Written by Topher Payne, “Perfect Arrangement” follows Bob Martindale (played by Robert Eli) and Norma Baxter (Julia Coffey) two U.S. State Department employees who are tasked with identifying “sexual deviants” within their ranks during the “Lavender Scare,” the years between 1945 and 1969 when homosexuality was grounds for dismissal from the federal government. The twist? Bob and Norma are both in sham marriages to hide the fact that they, too, are gay.
“When people have secrets that they’re trying to cover up, there’s great comedy in that,” Hanke, who plays a straight-laced, married schoolteacher who happens to be Bob’s secret lover, told The Huffington Post in an interview. “The way that these characters find themselves trying to spin those plates is very, very delightful to see.”
The show also marks Payne’s New York debut. Produced last year in Atlanta, “Perfect Arrangement” is giving the playwright, who has penned more than a dozen plays, a chance to “sneak a little social agenda” into an Off-Broadway comedy with a 1950s sitcom feel.
“I’m always intrigued by the moment just before extraordinary social change happens, either for the positive or negative, and when you can attach a human experience to a social issue, really wonderful things can happen,” he said. The ultimate goal of “Perfect Arrangement” is to “get people laughing, so that you can then engage in a conversation about something that matters.”
“I’m always intrigued by the moment just before extraordinary social change happens, either for the positive or negative, and when you can attach a human experience to a social issue, really wonderful things can happen.”
Calling the show “a non-stop carnival of delight,” director Michael Barakiva felt similarly, and believes “Arrangement” will resonate with both LGBT and heterosexual audiences because “everybody knows what it’s like to have a secret.”
Best known for the 2011 Broadway revival of “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying,” Hanke is no stranger to tackling modern gay roles, having recently starred as a sassy Hollywood hopeful who lands a job working for Barbra Streisand in the Off-Broadway solo comedy “Buyer and Cellar.” While he’s quick to tout the social progress the LGBT community has enjoyed, Hanke hopes theatergoers will walk away from the show with their “eyes opened.”
“I think that people will be able to see that the words, verbiage, attitudes and finger-pointing [that took place during the Lavender Scare] sound pretty similar to the words, verbiage, attitudes and finger-pointing that happens today,” he said. “To show them a little piece of American history that’s not pretty to see is really awesome as an actor.”
Sounds like a must-see to us!
Currently in previews, the Primary Stages production of “Perfect Arrangement” opens Oct. 15 at The Duke on 42nd Street in New York. Head here for more details.
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