Harvey Feirstein’s semi-autobiographical play garnered him a bagful of awards and became a seminal work in the gay genre. It’s set in New York in the 1970s, but take away all the temporal cues and it still feels contemporary and relevant. This production by Darlinghurst Theatre Company is a reprisal of director Stephen Colyer’s much lauded 2013 production and is every bit as good.
The play has three acts that effectively reflect life phases of main character and Feirstein’s alter ego, Arnold Beckoff.
Arnold (Simon Corfield) is a gay Jewish drag queen living in New York and longing for true love. He meets Ed (Tim Draxl) one night – bisexual, closeted, engaged to be married. A doomed romance ensues, with Ed determined to commit to his marriage to Laurel (Hilary Cole) and Arnold eventually seeking solace in the arms of young, handsome Alan (Stephen Madsen). The script is witty, incisive and poignant, intermingled with big laughs and genuine heart-string pulling. It is underscored with a soundtrack of recorded 70s disco hits and standards from the great American songbook (Gershwin et al) sung by various cast members, notably Cole in a double role as Lady Blues. Musical Director, Phil Scott provides accompaniment on a baby grand Kawai at upstage centre, while Imraan Daniels, who plays Arnold’s adoptive son, David, also doubles as a cabaret singer. All performances are strong, with Corfield outstanding as gravel voiced Arnold, but Kate Raison makes a show stealing last act entry as Ma Beckoff. The scenes between the torturous Jewish mother and browbeaten son are hilarious and heart-rending in swift turns.
It’s a lengthy play with two intervals but it never drags (no pun intended). The lighting and stage design are clever and effective. There is a strong sense of rapport among the actors that emanates into the audience.
You must see this production.
Until Aug 26. Eternity Playhouse, 39 Burton St, Darlinghurst. $38-$54+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.darlinghursttheatre.com
Reviewed by Rita Bratovich.