Say a Little Prayer for the Closet


The day after the revival of Promises, Promises officially opened on April 25th, 2010, the magazine Newsweek posted an article on its website that began with the following provocation: “The reviews for the Broadway revival of Promises, Promises were negative enough, even though most of the critics ignored the real problem—the big pink elephant in the room.” As the author, pop culture critic Ramin Setoodeh, saw it, the problem that everyone was ignoring was that Sean Hayes, the actor playing Promises’ lead role, was unconvincing in the part because he is an out gay man. Setoodeh reminds readers that Hayes is “best known as the queeny Jack on Will & Grace” and that the actor’s “sexual orientation is part of who he is.” Thus, he complains, “it’s weird seeing Hayes play straight. He comes off as wooden and insincere, as if he’s trying to hide something, which of course he is.” A bit later in the piece, Setoodeh describes Sean Hayes as someone who “tips off even your grandmother’s gaydar.” The ostensible point of the piece – which is entitled “Straight Jacket” – is to discuss the difficulties of being an out gay or lesbian actor, but the article is short, and is neither really a careful critique of Promises, Promises nor coherently argumentative. Rather, Setoodeh’s article is more of a set of musings prompted by his attendance at the Promises revival and his dislike of the show and the show’s central performance.

These post-show ruminations, however, caused rather a stir. On the gay culture website After Elton, editor-in-chief Michael Jensen posted a scathing response in which he describes Setoodeh’s opinions as “shockingly retroactive” and accuses the critic of reiterating “the tired gay-obsessions of the far right.” For Jensen, the crux of the matter is that Setoodeh’s critiques damage the gay community as a whole, and he argues that “It’s already difficult enough for actors to brave any possible backlash by coming out.” A few days later Sean Hayes was nominated for a Tony award as best actor in a musical, but the Newsweek kerfuffle had only just begun…