In early 2020, Lefra Productions proudly announced the 25th anniversary revival of the hit play Love! Valour! Compassion! by playwright Terrence McNally. However, the COVID-19-pandemic hit and the revival was put on hold. Sadly, McNally was one of the very first casualties of the pandemic and died of complications from COVID-19 on March 24, 2020, at a hospital in Florida, USA. What was to be an anniversary production in 2020, will now be a tribute production in 2021 and beyond. Love! Valour! Compassion! was hailed by many critics as McNally’s masterpiece. Love! Valour! Compassion! is directed by Gregg Pettigrew and produced by Frans Swart of Lefra Productions and will play in the John Kani at The Market Theatre from 19 November to 12 December, with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 19:00 and 15:00 on Saturdays and Sundays. To book your tickets, please visit www.LTickets.co.za For group bookings and more information, kindly phone (011) 815-3000 or send an e-mail to tickets@LTickets.co.za. Love! Valour! Compassion! is presented with the proud support of Ambassador Execudrive, Britz Couriers and Removals, Crown National, the home of Six Gun Grill, Hollywood Costumes, Lift, RSG, Rockets Man, Sounds Good, Van Loveren Wines and WS Pianos.

Eight men confront their lives, loves and friendships over the three successive holiday weekends, at a farmhouse in Duchess County, New York. Winner of the 1995 Tony Award for Best Play, Love! Valour! Compassion! explores the lives, loves, and fears of eight gay men in the 1990s. Over the course of the summer, the men’s conversations touch on themes of infidelity, flirting, AIDS, skinny-dipping, and questions about life and death. It’s a comedy about some comparatively privileged gay people in a world whose problems are ultimately shared by everyone.

Gregory (Glenn Swart), the host of the gatherings, is a successful but aging choreographer trying to complete what may be his last major work. Bobby (Matthew Barrett), his blind and much younger live-in boyfriend loves him but is still discovering who he is and what he wants from the world. John (James van Helsdingen) is a cynical, mean-spirited, failed English playwright, relegated to working as a rehearsal pianist for Gregory’s company. His twin brother, James, a costumer for the National Theatre of Great Britain, is as kind and compassionate as John is angry and alienated. He is also dying of AIDS. Ramon (Tristin Focherini) is John’s current boyfriend. He is a young, handsome, and talented Puerto Rican dancer just beginning his career. He is also filled with confidence, brimming with sexuality, and very attracted to Bobby. Perry (Mauritz Badenhorst) and Arthur (Richard White) are the group’s “role models.” Although they constantly bicker and feud, the lawyer and accountant have been together for fourteen years and are often the force of stability in an otherwise chaotic world. Finally, there is Buzz (Schoeman Smit), the highly charged and hilarious costumer for Gregory’s company who is obsessed with musical theatre, always ready with a sarcastic one-liner, and is usually the life of the party. Like James, he is HIV-positive, and his high jinks often mask his troubled spirit.

Theatre goers will find a formula that has worked well for McNally in some of his other successes: a group of characters gathered together for a weekend of talking, laughing, and exploring the boundaries of their relationships and some of life’s more profound and difficult questions. In his introduction to the published play, McNally revealed, “I wanted to write about what it’s like to be a gay man at this particular moment in our history. I think I wanted to tell my friends how much they’ve meant to me. I think I wanted to tell everyone else who we are when they aren’t around.”

Mostly comic, the play manages to include elements of seriousness and even tragedy. It employs some unconventional theatrical techniques. The stage is mostly bare, the scenery imagined, and each of the characters takes turns narrating the action, alternately speaking directly to the audience and to one another. It is, as the 1997 film version of the play was billed, an outrageous mix of the The Big Chill and The Bird Cage.

This play tugs at the heart strings as well as provides the audience with ample opportunity for a good laugh as well as a healthy dose of titillation. By turns soul-searching and hilarious, the play sings with truth about all humans and their interpersonal relationships. The central theme of this play is friendship and it transcends sexual orientation ensuring that every member of the audience will leave with clear message, that, “Friendship is everything!”