Script by Harvey Fierstein. Direction by Tim Irving. Cast of Matthew Weeden, Barron Henzel, Sidney Franklin, Amanda Sitton, Tom Zohar, and Jill Drexler. All the ingredients necessary for a fantastic production of Torch Song Trilogy. That’s exactly what you should expect and you will get with Diversionary’s current offering. This is a definite must-see.
You will laugh until your sides ache. Fierstein’s brilliant script barely leaves you time to recover from one laugh before you are in another laugh. He balances the humor with the various realities that on-stage Drag Queen Arnold faces. There are moments when you’ll feel the pain felt by Arnold (Matthew Weeden) and some of the others as they face the turn of the century, being Jewish and being gay, having a mother’s non-acceptance of his sexuality, of being in love with a bisexual, of defining what a family really is, and so much more.
Originally three one-act plays, Torch Song Trilogy opens with a monolog as Arnold primps for a performance in the aptly named International Stud, the first-act title. He is struggling with his relationship with bisexual schoolteacher Ed, Barron Henzel. An added touch is Weeden’s rendition of “What is this thing called love?”
The second act, Fugue in a Nursery, is set in Ed’s farmhouse in the mountains. A fantastic and over-worked stage crew created a completely new set featuring a huge bed, representing two separate beds in separate rooms. Ed is engaged to Laura (Amanda Sitton) and Arnold is partnered with a twenty-something Alan (Sidney Franklin). The dialog and action plays individually with each couple as well as every possibly permutation of coupling. Weeden brings us two more songs.
The final act, Widows and Children First!, introduces Arnold’s mother, Mrs. Beckoff (Jill Drexler). She is a stereotypical Jewish mother. She immediately takes command as she crosses the threshold. She is in denial that her son is gay. The fight that finally erupts is a classic. Amidst; losing a lover, searching for his full identity, and enduring a ranting mother Arnold decides to adopt a teenage gay son. David (Tom Zohar) may be a teen, but he is definitely the adult in many of the situations facing Arnold. He charms his soon-to-be grandmother. When Zohar takes the stage, his energy and delightful delivery command close attention.
Torch Song Trilogy is probably the best play we’ve seen this season. As stated in the opening paragraph, every element is excellent. I have no idea how Matthew Weeden could possibly be on stage every minute, have a tremendous line load, and be so good as Arnold. We laughed and cried with him. His supporting cast was excellent too. One wee warning, the production runs almost four hours with two intermissions. Honestly, I didn’t notice the length until I checked my watch at curtain call – a tribute to everybody involved in this production.
Matthew Weeden, Jill Drexler, Sidney Franklin, Barron Henzel, Amanda Sitton, Tom Zohar
Casting G. Scott Lacy, Set Design David Weiner, Lighting Design Bonnie Breckenridge, Costume Design Jennifer Braun Gittings, Properties Amy Reams, Music Consultant Amy Dalton, SM Chris Powell
Total Rating: Three and half Stars
Author: Harvey Fierstein
Director: Tim Irving
Date Reviewed: November 18, 2007
Dates: Thursday thru Sunday, November 15 to December 16, 2007
Running Time: 118 minutes with a 15-minute intermission
Diversionary Theatre – Regional theatre
4545 Park Blvd
San Diego (University Heights), CA
Box Office Phone 619 220-0097