JACK RUSHEN’S ‘Taming The Lion’ is the true story of of the contentious relationship between movie mogul LOUIS B. MAYER, and the first openly gay star, WILLIAM HAINES.
Although he’s largely forgotten today, actor William Haines was one of Hollywood’s top leading men of the silent and early talkie eras, acting in 50 films for MGM between 1922 and 1934.
The quaint stage at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills was set to a quintessential office in MGM STUDIOS, CULVER CITY, CA, 1933. This thoughtfully decorated space is where William Haines (LANDON BEATTY), would negotiate his professional life and subsequently his personal life as they were intertwined in the worst of ways.
In 1933 there was more of a concern with what your professional superiors thought you and your life outside of a Hollywood Studio and less encouragement to be yourself. See William was gay, but his hot shot studio boss, Louis Mayer (JEFFREY WINNER) has morals clauses and uptight, homophobic critics to worry about at a time when actors did not just come out as gay and threatens to derail all William has worked for and all that is potentially in his future.
It must be said, he does it using dramatic facial expressions which required him to constantly be in character and are comedic at times. A real love with Jimmie (NIKO BOLES) and a real friendship/pretend love with Joan (MARIE BRODERICK), with whom there was undeniable chemistry, only made our friend William’s decisions even harder and his intense monologue to the audience detailing that conflict allowed us to empathize.
Director MELANIE MACQUEEN more than delivers with “Taming of the Lion.” The creative use of the stage was impressive. In between scenes the lights would dim and the usual moving around that comes along with theatre took place, but the effective use of the space made it seem much bigger and with more variety. During times when the lights were dim, catchy, upbeat music from the era was playing which set the mood.
Additionally, there were props (a TELEPHONE, a phonograph, and an intercom) that really helped make it seem like the 1930s. It was quite charming. Last but definitely not least, the outfits worn by the cast, particularly Joan were fabulous! From the dresses to the jewels, costumes were on point.
The World Premiere of Taming the Lion will resume performances on April 2nd 2020.