Some things take a very long time to change. If that were not so, Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy – which opened at the Darlinghurst Theatre on February 5 – would not continue to be so relevant.
This very funny but deeply dark play shows that decades after the trilogy was first performed on Broadway in 1982, the battle for GLBTQ equal rights has yet to be won.
Fierstein’s intensely personal collection of three plays – Act 1: The International Stud; Act 2: Fugue in a Nursery; Act 3: Widows and Children First! – chronicles a Jewish New York drag queen’s quest for love, dignity and respect.
Director Stephen Colyer has created a fine balance between comedy and agony in this trilogy. The rapier wit gets the laughs but the raw human emotion and universal need for love is most striking, and it’s what the audience takes away from the show.
All six cast members deliver excellent performances but Simon Corfield dominates the stage as Arnold Beckoff, the drag queen who falls in love with a confused biosexual Ed (Christian Ellis) before settling down with young fashion model Alan (Thom Jordan).
Arnold’s experiences are as applicable today as they were in the pre-AIDS 1980s. Issues of gay marriage and the right to adopt have now taken centre stage but discrimination and violence against gays have not disappeared.
Amanda Muggleton is lethal as Mrs Beckoff, Arnold’s long-suffering and demanding Jewish mother who dominates the third Act.
Arnold yearns for his mother’s love and approval and the scene when they compare their pain as widows is the most deeply touching in the entire trilogy. That Arnold has to explain and even justify his grief at the death of his partner goes to the heart of the suffering addressed in this play.
Special mention must be made of Phil Scott’s arrangement of the musical score and some of the best torch songs ever written, sung and played on stage by the cast.
Belinda Wollaston is in fine form as the torch singer and as Ed’s girlfriend Laurel, and Matthew Verevis – sweetly cheeky as the boy Arnold wants to adopt – has a glorious voice.
Production designer Andreas Espinoza’s set is simple but very versatile.
Overall, this is a highly entertaining and intensely moving play.
Torch Song Trilogy is at Darlinghurst Theatre, 19 Greenknowe Avenue, Potts Point until March 3. Book: darlinghursttheatre.com/theatre19 or 02 8356 9987.