Still burning bright


Torch Song Trilogy

Written by Harvey Fierstein
Directed by Stephanie Nachamie
The Gallery Players (
199 14th St., Brooklyn (718-595-0547)
Equity Showcase (Closed)
Review by Seth Bisen-Hersh


Torch Song Trilogy is a seminal play about homosexuality. It is both funny and poignant, if long. The Gallery Players did a fine job reviving it with a stellar cast.


The plot of Torch Song Trilogy basically follows a relationship between two gay males, Arnold (Seth Rudetsky) and Ed (Brad Thomason). Arnold is a drag queen, and also pretty stereotypically queeny – proud and affirmed in his sexual preference. On the other hand, Ed is closeted and ashamed. As the play commences, Ed breaks up with Arnold to date a woman, Laurel (Andrea Wollenberg), which he feels is much more acceptable. The scenes in Act One are punctuated by Lady Blues (Yolanda Batts) who sings torch songs between scenes to elevate the emotional pain Arnold is feeling.


Act Two takes place at a country house retreat. Laurel and Ed, now married, have invited Arnold up for the weekend. He brings the young model, Alan (Andy Phelan) he has been dating. Much conflict ensues. Act Three takes place five years later. Arnold has recently adopted a son, David (March Tumminelli), and his mother, Mrs. Beckoff (Laura Sommer Raines) comes to visit. Again, much conflict ensues.


The play is extremely honest and well-written. There is so much emotional depth and sincerity that it is impossible to not connect to at least part of it. The dialogue is all very real; it never feels forced. It is no surprise that it took home many Tony Awards in 1983, including Best Play.


The cast was exquisite. Seth Rudetsky took the part of Arnold, originally played by Fierstein, and completely made it his own. He vacillated from joking to deeply emoting with great skill, never missing a beat. It was a very impressive performance. The supporting players were all very good, as well. Yolanda Batts sang all of the torch songs in the first act with fierce passion. Brad Thomason waffled well emotionally bringing truth to his role. Andrea Wollenberg was believable as the needy wife, who settles even though she knows her husband is in love with another man. Andy Phelan was sweetly charming as the model. Marc Tumminelli was sufficiently bratty yet vulnerable as the son. Finally, Laura Sommer Raines was nagging but caring as Mrs. Beckoff.


Stephen Nachamie kept the show moving; he made good use of the set. Speaking of, the set by Craig M. Napoliello was monstrously and impressively detailed. It completely changed with each act and cleverly had different playing areas, so that changes during the acts themselves were sparse. Dan Gallagher created ample lighting to produce different moods and times of day. Kathleen Leary’s costumes were functional and realistic. Brenna Sage’s incidental music helped transition the scenes nicely.


Thus, the Gallery Players’ production of Torch Song Trilogy was highly entertaining as well as moving. It is highly recommended especially for those who have never seen this touching, truthful play.


Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 1
Acting: 2
Set: 2
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1


Copyright 2006 Seth Bisen-Hirsh


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