Every Act of Life featured interviews with F. Murray Abraham, Rita Moreno, Angela Lansbury, Nathan Lane, among many other McNally collaborators
Terrence McNally, the Tony Award-winning playwright whose career was documented in the 2018 film Every Act of Life, died Tuesday in Sarasota, Florida at the age of 81. The cause, according to his husband Tom Kirdahy, was complications of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. McNally suffered from COPD and had survived lung cancer.
McNally's work in the theater began in 1963 and extended for more than five decades. Notable successes included the Tony-winning plays Love! Valor! Compassion! (1995) and Master Class (1996) and the books for the musicals Kiss of the Spider Woman (1993) and Ragtime (1998). He also wrote Lips Together, Teeth Apart (1991), Frankie and Johnny at the Claire de Lune (1982) and later adapted it for the screen, and The Ritz (1975), also later adapted into a movie.
Edie Falco, F. Murray Abraham, Nathan Lane, Angela Lansbury and Tyne Daly are among the stars interviewed for Every Act of Life, which premiered in 2018 and aired on PBS last year as part of the American Masters series. Rita Moreno, who won a Tony for her work in The Ritz on Broadway and starred in the film version, also appeared in the documentary directed by Jeff Kaufman.
He always looked like this little boy, sweet little Irish lad, with a poison tongue.
Moreno turned out for a screening of Every Act of Life at the 2018 Outfest film festival in Los Angeles, speaking with Nonfictionfilm.com on the red carpet.
"He's really got a wicked sense of humor," Moreno said of the playwright. "He always looked like this boy, sweet little Irish lad, with a poison tongue, that I loved, that I absolutely loved."
McNally was unusual for his time in being an openly gay public figure. Most of his plays focused in one way or another on gay life. Love! Valour! Compassion!, for instance, revolved around a group of eight gay men who spend Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day together one summer at a house outside of New York.
As a young man McNally became romantically involved with fellow playwright Edward Albee, a relationship that lasted five years but McNally said was doomed because Albee felt uncomfortable being "out." Moreno told us she admired McNally's honest way of handling his sexuality.
"Terrence was never, as far as I know and as far as I could see, never ashamed of being gay, never had any problems with it," she commented. "He just was, and that's how it was."
Every Act of Life is available for streaming or purchase on Amazon. Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.