Nostalgia is rampant in America, especially on Fox News, which seems regularly to bemoan the loss of innocence and the primacy of traditional roles that ruled this country in the 1950s. If you were – like the leadership of Fox News – white, male, and at least middle class, things were indeed pretty darn awesome.
Unless, of course, you were gay. In which case (and if you were found out) you dropped suddenly from top of the food chain to an existence as prey. Like reef fish darting in and out of coral to avoid hungry predators, gay men and women – at least until Stonewall – either kept a very low profile, hid themselves away, or disguised themselves in order to pass in straight society.
Millie and Bob Martindale and Jim and Norma Baxter seem to have perfected the art of camouflage. They live a stereotypical 50s American post-war dream, complete with houses in the suburbs, cocktail parties with friends, poofy skirts and narrow ties. But for the Martindales and the Baxters, this is all veneer, covering up their real lives: Norma and Millie are lesbians, Jim and Bob are gay men. Their houses adjoin (accessed, fittingly, through the closet) and they present to the world as two ordinary couples, while behind closed doors they live seemingly happy lives, comfortable knowing their cover protects them.
Bob, however, works for a government agency investigating the presence of communists, and has been informed that the department will now be expanding its search to include homosexuals and adulterers.
It’s a fascinating setup, but unfortunately the play itself is clumsy and clichéd, playing for humor for the first two-thirds, then descending into tragedy. It’s anything but perfect.