Love! Valour! Compassion!

             LOVE! VALOUR! COMPASSION! was Terrence McNally's 1995 award-winning
      play about a group of seven gay male friends who spend several weekends
      over one summer at the upstate New York home of a respected choreographer.
      The 1997 feature film, directed by Joe Mantello who staged the original work,
      reunited most of the Broadway cast. The glaring exception was Nathan Lane
      who originated the role of Buzz, an HIV-positive musical theater queen. For
      various reasons, Lane was unavailable when the movie was made and he was
      replaced by Jason Alexander, who was perhaps best known as George from the
"SEINFELD."  It's perhaps a tribute to Alexander and his capabilities that
      he seamlessly fit into the ensemble of actors, although there were a few times
      I felt he was pushing a bit too hard with the character.

              Mantello made his feature film directing debut (and as of 2006, it remains
      his only foray into movies) with
      his hiring made a great deal of sense. He had been intimately involved with
      the project; indeed, he had filed a lawsuit in 1996 charging a Florida theater
      company with appropriating his directorial ideas for the play in its staging.
      The theater company agreed to pay Mantello a fee while the lawsuit was
      dropped, but it raised the notion of protecting the work of a stage director.

              Mantello's job as director of the feature film was aided greatly by
      the casting of seven actors who originated their roles on stage. Stephen
      Bogardus played Gregory, the organizer of the weekend getaways and the
      owner of the home where the action unfolds. Gregory is an aging choreographer
      struggling with a creative block. His lover is Bobby (Justin Kirk) who happens
      to be blind. Their guests include Arthur and Perry (John Benjamin Hickey and
      Stephen Spinella), an upper middle-class couple who have been together for
      14 years, something which Perry points outs sardonically makes them "role
      models." Also visiting are Buzz (Alexander), pianist-composer John Jeckyll
      (John Glover), a bitter sort whom no one really likes, and his latest boyfriend
      Ramon (Randy Becker), an ambitious dancer with a dangerous sexual allure.

              Like the play, the action unfolds over three summer holiday weekends,
      Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day. The first leads to a betrayal, the
      second to a new love (with the addition of Jeckyll's sweet identical twin James,
      also played by Glover) and the third allows some matters to be resolved.
      The film takes a while to kick in as the first half-hour or so is taken up with
      exposition and introducing the various characters. McNally, who penned
      the screenplay, also has retained a great deal of the witty banter that worked
      well on stage. The actors all wear their roles like a second skin, with Glover
      perhaps earning top kudos for his dual roles.

              When I saw the play on Broadway (at that point Lane had left the cast
      and was replaced by Mario Cantone), I wasn't quite sure what all the fuss was
      about, particularly as it came on the heels of Tony Kushner's amazing two-part
ANGELS IN AMERICA. I suspect that those who watch the film may wonder
      the same thing. It's a pleasant diversion that allows a group of seven actors
      to strut their stuff, but
LOVE! VALOUR! COMPASSION! isn't exactly a
      groundbreaking effort.

Rating:               C
MPAA Rating:      R for graphic nudity, some sexuality
                                              and strong language
Running time:     108 mins.
© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.