Review: Torch Song (NYC)

Cast of Torch Song. Photo by Joan Marcus

Torch Song

2nd Stage Theatre

Written by Harvey Fierstein. Directed by Moisés Kaufman. At Tony Kiser Theatre (NYC). Runs until December 9.

Playwright Harvey Fierstein’s poignant Torch Song is just as moving and prescient today as it was in 1982, when it was first done under the title Torch Song Trilogy.

Fierstein revised it into a two-act comedy/drama, but it still deals with Arnold Beckoff (Michael Urie) an effervescent gay drag queen, singer of torch songs, living in New York City in the late 1970s and early 80s. Arnold laments how hard it is to find true love and, even when he does, his intended is still not sure if he’s straight or gay or both. When Arnold’s hilarious, sharp-tongued Ma (Mercedes Ruehl) suggests that Arnold could have chosen to live “the straight life,” you could hear the audience sucking in air, all of us shocked at how deluded she was. That uninformed mindset is almost as prevalent now as it was then.

Urie is buoyant, lively, quick-witted, and brimming with the good nature, which makes him a mark for disappointment and being hurt in a relationship. His scenes with Ruehl crackle with perfect timing as the good-natured barbs whiz through the air like ping-pong balls hit by masters. Every stare from her is a look of judgement, albeit love-filled. Arnold receives it all with patience and good humour.

Fierstein’s play deals with the weighty matters of the heart: finding love and contentment in life, coping with disappointment and loss, recognizing good fortune when it comes. He writes mainly of the gay life in Torch Song. But Fierstein is really writing for all of us.

For tickets or more information, click here.

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Written By

Lynn is the former theatre critic for Intermission, and currently writes reviews on her blog The Slotkin Letter. She also does theatre reviews, interviews, and commentary for CIUT Friday Morning (89.5 FM). She was a theatre reviewer for CBC's Here and Now for ten years. On average, she sees 280 shows a year.