TORCH SONG (1812 Productions): Songs from another time

Grace Gonglewski and Jamison Stern in TORCH SONG at 1812 Productions. Photo by Mark Garvin

It may have been a mistake for 1812 Productions to begin the evening with a video clip of Harvey  Fierstein welcoming the audience to this revival of his 1982 play in his irresistible gravelly voice. It was downhill from there. 

Lacking such rizz, the actors, who all do a fine job, are stuck in what seems overlong and repetitious  although still pared-down script. The original version, Torch Song Trilogy, ran four hours—and did that for 1222 performances, until it closed on 10th May 1985. The play won the Tony Awards in 1983 for both Best Play and Best Actor in a Play. This production, directed by Bill Fennelly, is cluttered up with projections and a noisy soundtrack

Arnold (Jamison Stern) is a drag queen, although in this new (2018) version we get none of the fun of that; he’s just a homely guy looking for love. He finds it in Ed (Gregory Isaac) who is inconveniently involved in a romance and then marriage to Laurel (Karen Peakes).  Eventually he finds true love in Alan (Tyler S. Elliott). The couple arrives for a weekend in the country visiting Laurel and Ed, and spend their time (and ours—enough already!) popping up in bed in various combinations.  Alan is, we learn later, killed in a hate crime on the street in Manhattan. Thus the cutesy rom-com turns tragic.

The second act is a standard-issue family drama. David (Elliot Colahan) is the teenage foster son Arnold is planning to adopt—he makes many wise-child speeches—and a visit from his Jewish mother (Grace Gonglewski) turns confrontational as Arnold defends his gay life. These scenes have genuinely moving moments when they let go of the potato latkes jokes.

Although the defense of gay life and  the LGBTQ+  community is in a different place now, I imagine for many in the audience, Torch Song still sings.

[1812 Productions at ] April 25-May 19, 2024;

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