The uber-talented Harvey Fierstein burst onto the Broadway scene in 1982 with his play "Torch Song Trilogy." He wrote and starred in the semi-autobiographical work, which brought him the first two of his four Tony Awards. It’s a painfully clear-eyed snapshot of a gay man’s life in 1970s NYC. And now it’s back, leaner by about an hour, but the new "Torch Song" remains as resonant as ever.
Arnold Beckoff is a gay man who craves a lasting relationship; and in the first part set in 1971 entitled “International Stud,” he does finally meet the man of his dreams. Ed is quite the stud, but he’s also bisexual, at least that’s what he believes, and there is a woman competing for Arnold’s affections.
Next comes “Fugue In a Nursery.” It’s three years later. Arnold has a new lover and Ed is now married.
The third part of the trilogy, “Widows and Children First,” is the best of the three and features a wonderful performance by Mercedes Ruehl as Arnold’s passive-aggressive mother.
The dynamic between all of them, including the newly separated Ed, is deeply honest. It also reveals Fierstein to be more than a playwright who can crack wise. He crafts richly nuanced roles, which this excellent company plumbs to the fullest. And a big bravo to Michael Urie. If he seems to push a little too hard and fast in the early scenes, he is bravura by the end.
The LGBTQ community has certainly come far since Arnold Beckoff was bemoaning his lonely life, but in so many ways, Arnold’s story doesn’t seem all that dated. Fortunately, we have the sublimely plaintive "Torch Song" with its sad old refrain to remind us how far we have yet to go.