Love! Valour! Compassion!, Organic Touchstone Company, at Touchstone Theatre. If Thornton Wilder were an openly gay middle-aged man today he might have written Terrence McNally’s 1994 play, about the evolving relationships among eight plucky, temperamental gay men who spend three holiday weekends together one summer. In this elegiac comedy, McNally uses the characters’ friendships and romances to mine insight into universal issues–the nature of love, the fear of failure, the inevitability of death–as Wilder did in such works as Our Town, The Matchmaker, and The Long Christmas Dinner. He also employs some of Wilder’s signature illusion-breaking devices–pantomime to depict activities such as swimming and boating, for instance, and characters directly addressing the audience. (In one scene here a blind man falls off the stage and brushes off viewers’ attempts to help him up.)

McNally is a shrewd, witty, but shallow writer. This three-hour play is by turns poignant, funny, and sexy (it includes full nudity), but it’s never quite as illuminating or moving as McNally seems to think; by the third act its crackling, quirky energy wanes. But the roles are strongly written, emotionally wide-ranging, and beautifully played under Steve Scott’s direction. Particularly effective are Marc Silvia, displaying whiplash timing as a campy quipster; Patrick Dollymore in the dual role of twin brothers–one nasty, one nice–too obviously named Jeckyll; and Peter Toran as an aging choreographer terrified of losing his young lover and his artistic powers.

–Albert Williams