Every gay on earth is in the current Broadway revival of Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band except me—and Mario Cantone. The groundbreaking 1968 play, about a gay man’s birthday party which turns sour, has been directed by Tony winner Joe Mantello with a star-studded cast that is making the play’s self-loathing issues bankable again. But when I ran into Cantone—the manically hilarious comic actor famous for playing a couple of Anthonys (wedding planner Marantino on Sex and the City and disgraced White House communications director Scaramucci on The President Show)—he told me why he’s conspicuously absent from the cast.
First, some background. Last week, I went to see Mario name a sandwich after himself at Sergimmo Salumeria, an intimate panini shop in the Village whose owners he’s friends with. At the event, Mario got involved in filming a local news segment on the sandwich (made of prosciutto, cheese, and stuffed peppers), and I didn’t get to talk with him in time and left in a huff. (They sent me sandwiches and a ball of mozzarella as consolation, and I dutifully engorged my pain, belch). But just yesterday, I was sipping a cup of coffee while leaning on a trash can outside a Times Square porn shop—true story—when Mario happened to walk by and say hello.
“This is kismet” I exclaimed, meaning it was my chance to finally corner him for the interview. We talked about his sandwich and our mutual love of cheesesteaks and distaste for olive loaf. And then I blurted, “So why aren’t you in The Boys in the Band?”
“Because I‘m too old,” he shot back without pause. “I’m not in that much denial,” he went on. “It’s supposed to be Michael’s 30th birthday, and they’re all in that age.” “But they’re not all 30,” I squawked. “Jim Parsons isn’t 30.” [To be exact, Parsons, who plays Michael, is 45, Matt Bomer and Zach Quinto are 40, Tuc Watkins is 51, and Andrew Rannells is 39. No one here is 30!]
“But Jim Parsons looks 30,” said Mario, 58. “I’m going opening night—it’s my boy, Joe Mantello. [Mantello directed Mario in Love! Valour! Compassion! and two solo shows].” Mario added that he loved Mantello’s current production of Three Tall Women, upon which I explained that I had been invited to a midnight performance of that Albee play and was told there would be some kind of fascinating twist during the show. “What can it be?” I wondered. “Nathan Lane will play the son?”
“The twist,” laughed Mario, “is that I’m going to be Glenda Jackson!” And with that, I finished my coffee and, rather than go into the porn shop, went back home to my mozzarella ball.