Norwalk's Robin de Jesus Plays In The 'Band' Of Brothers

Robin de Jesus (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Robin de Jesus (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Robin de Jesus says he didn’t initially feel the cultural significance of the current Broadway production of Matthew Crowley’s The Boys in the Band, the 1968 play about a group of gay men gathering for a birthday party where their secret selves are revealed in funny, sad and painful ways.

But there was the two-time, Tony Award-nominated de Jesus among a starry cast of all “out” gay actors, including The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons, Magic Mike’s Matt Bomer, The Book of Mormon’s Andrew Rannells and Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto for the revival of the play that was groundbreaking in its day, but in subsequent decades has gone out of favor.

But this high-profile revival, directed by Joe Mantello, is being presented in a different cultural context than it was 50 — or even 20 — years ago, when the idea of gay marriage, rights and protections was almost inconceivable.

“My privilege — that sense of being an empowered, modern gay man — blinded me and I didn’t feel the impact this production would have,” the 33-year-old Norwalk native says during a break in preview performances at a coffee shop near New York’s Booth Theatre, where the show is playing through Aug. 11.

Coming of age during the millennium, de Jesus grew up in Norwalk, the son of factory workers from Puerto Rico and the youngest of three children. De Jesus says he lived parallel lives as a teenager in Norwalk: one in a culturally diverse high school and another in the world of musical theater of predominantly white kids when he joined Crystal Theatre, Fairfield County’s children’s theater group.

These two worlds “were isolated from each other and rarely met,” he says, although in high school he identified as “queer” and was “out” to friends — “if it came up.”