(Cover Photo: Peter Mill in a scene from "TORCH SONG" from Moonbox Productions in Boston, MA. now playing through December 23, 2022. Photo Credit Nikolai Alexander/FPoint Productions)
By Kevin T. Baldwin
“You want to be a part of my life, I'm not editing out the things you don't like!" - Harvey Fierstein
Written by Harvey Fierstein
Directed by Allison Olivia Choat
Producer Sharman Altshuler
Moonbox Productions, Roberts Studio Theatre, Boston Center For The Arts, 539 Tremont St, Boston, Ma 02116
Cast Includes: Peter Mill*, Christhian Mancinas-Garcia, Janis Hudson, Jack Manning, Jack Mullen*, Bobbie Steinbach*, Alex Boyle, Sam Asa Brownstein, Anne Sablich
Additional Creative Team:
Production Stage Manager - Pat-Rice Rooney*; Rehearsal Stage Manager - Kailey Bennett; Deck Stage Manager - Roisin Dowling; Production Manager - Kailey Bennett; Assistant Production Manager - Sean Watkins; Lighting Designer - Finn Bamber; Production Electrician - Joe Marasco; Load In/Electrical Consultant - Jessica Elliott; Sound Designer - Audrey Dube; Set Designer - Cameron McEachern; Technical Director - Diego Farrell; Costume Designer - Joe Michienzie; Hair and Make-up Designer & Production Creative Consultant - Peter Mill*; Wardrobe Supervisor - Cidalia Santos; Props Designer - Addie Pates; Assistant Props Designer - Roisin Dowling; Intimacy Director - Kayleigh Kane; Audio Engineer - Lexie Lankiewicz; Run Crew - Ally MacLean; Fight and intimacy Captain - Janis Hudson; Production and Technical Consultant - Jo Williams; Publicist - Regina Norfolk
December 2, 2022 through December 23, 2022
(Contact Box Office for Exact Times)
$65 general admission/$55 seniors and are available at https://bit.ly/TorchSng or by calling 617-933-8600
Moonbox Productions presents an exemplary staging of Harvey Fierstein’s iconic “TORCH SONG” which, even after four decades, still challenges expectations for plays blending comedy with human drama.
Although, on the surface, Fierstein’s very personal play seems to be about a homosexual's attempts at surviving the sexually transitional decade of the 1970s, it soon becomes more a more distinctly comprehensive story about required compassion – compassion requisite within the relationships of couples and, later, compassion requisite within one’s own family.
Moonbox Productions partners with a local non-profit, to raise awareness for their cause, create connections for them within the community, and increase the reach and impact of their work. For this latest production of “TORCH SONG,” Moonbox is partnering with Greater Boston PFLAG.
In a press release from Moonbox: "Since 1978, Greater Boston PFLAG has been dedicated to supporting the LGBTQ+ community through education and advocacy. They proudly offer support services to family, friends, significant others, and allies via 18+ support groups (currently meeting virtually and in person), a helpline, and a one-to-one program. They also provide LGBTQ+ educational trainings and workshops in a wide range of settings, including schools, places of worship, workplaces, and community spaces. Every day they work to achieve their vision of a world in which LGBTQ+ individuals are safe, supported, included, and equal in their families, in their communities, and in society."
“TORCH SONG” opened on Broadway in 1982 and, as a self-proclaimed "trilogy," maintained a long and critically successful run and winning two Tony Awards. The play ran for 1,222 performances and 8 previews.
In the latest adaptation by Moonbox Productions, under the direction of Allison Olivia Choat, the "trilogy" of acts for “TORCH SONG” still exists, with each segment taking place at a pivotal moment in the life of protagonist Arnold Beckhoff (Peter Mill), a Jewish homosexual and drag queen.
The three acts include:
"International Stud (1974)," "Fugue in a Nursery (1975)," and "Widows and Children First (1980)"
In the first act, "International Stud (1974)," Arnold speaks directly with us about his life as a drag queen and his lack of maintaining any meaningful relationship.
Mill is utterly absorbing as Arnold - it is a deeply complex portrayal, as Arnold is someone very much in tune with what is important - not only important to survive in an era where acceptance of homosexuality is barely a blip on the radar - but also important for Arnold to exist as a complete human being.
Yet, in 1974, Arnold does not feel complete. Far from it.
Into Arnold's life strolls Ed (Christhian Mancinas-Garcia), someone who is a little more self-assured, at least he seems that way, at first.
Later we learn Ed is struggling about his sexuality, which causes Arnold no end of headaches...and heartache.
As the two break-up, Arnold swims into the deep end of gay bar back rooms and random sexual encounters, most leading Arnold to emotional turmoil.
Ed, in the interim, has become involved with the beautiful Lauren (Janis Hudson) who is aware of Ed's "previous life" as a homosexual.
(Photo: Christhian Mancinas-Garcia, Janis Hudson, Peter Mill and Jack Manning in a scene from "TORCH SONG" from Moonbox Productions in Boston, MA. now playing through December 23, 2022. Photo Credit Nikolai Alexander/FPoint Productions)
As Ed meets with Arnold, he professes to love only Lauren now yet still does not wish to omit Arnold from his life altogether.
Which brings us to Fierstein's second act, "Fugue in a Nursery (1975)" where, approximately one year later, at Lauren's behest, Ed invites Arnold up to spend time with them at their country home.
Arnold brings along new boyfriend Alan (Jack Manning).
Arnold appears to be very much in love with the much younger Alan with the two even discussing perhaps adopting a child some day.
Manning is quite engaging as the outgoing, exuberant young Alan.
During this second act, this unusual quartet deals with the oppressively complex sexual and emotional strain stemming from Ed and Arnold’s past relationship.
All four lives are upended by the end of the act leaving many aspects unresolved as we begin the final chapter of the trilogy.
Hudson is quite convincing as the amiable Lauren who seeks to emotionally provide Alan with whatever is required by Alan to feel completely happy in their relationship - even if that means having to share part of Alan's soul...among other things...with the visiting Arnold.
(Photo: Peter Mill and Bobbie Steinbach in a scene from "TORCH SONG" from Moonbox Productions in Boston, MA. now playing through December 23, 2022. Photo Credit Nikolai Alexander/FPoint Productions)
In Fierstein's final act, "Widows and Children First (1980)," Arnold is seen as an older, wiser and much more emotionally secure person, who is now also a single guardian to young teenager, David (Jack Mullen), placed in his charge.
He is certainly more "complete" than he was back in 1974.
In fact, the third act of "TORCH SONG" really feels like where the play begins, with the first two acts serving more as a "prologue" to the events of the concluding act.
In a lesser writer's hands, the play might actually begin here and use flashbacks to fill in any historical gaps.
However, wisely sticking with the traditional structure of a trilogy (i.e. "Setup," "Conflict" and "Resolution") served Fierstein's story far better.
Sleeping on Arnold's couch is Ed, newly estranged from Lauren, turning up at the same time as Arnold's widowed mother, Ma (Bobbie Steinbach), who has come to visit Arnold.
While Ma is aware of her son's sexual orientation, she is unaware of the circumstances regarding Ed and David, hidden well among other secrets Arnold has kept from her.
Steinbach is an absolute gem as Ma, bringing a perfectly authentic portrayal of a mother deeply set in her ways - saddened by her son's resistance to her wanting to be part of his life yet not giving an inch of support for his personal decisions.
(Photo: Peter Mill stars in "TORCH SONG" from Moonbox Productions in Boston, MA. now playing through December 23, 2022. Photo Credit Nikolai Alexander/FPoint Productions)
Fierstein's text feels extremely personal and touches us on so many levels but mostly it reaches on the most recognizable of levels...loving someone and, moreso, feeling loved.
The show's timeframe precedes AIDS being acknowledged as a major medical problem. Instead, the most toxic malady to the gay lifestyle was hate.
Forty years later, the play still makes us consider just how enlightened we have become as a society when it comes to the subject of acceptance.
One thing for certain - For each of us, much like Arnold, our own personal journey to feeling "complete" is far from over. Most likely, the journey will always continue. Perhaps it is the journey itself that makes us, in the end, human.
Fierstein and the magnificent Moonbox production of "TORCH SONG," reminds us all of that journey - they remind us that the journey is equal to the distance between acknowledgement and compassion - they remind us that it is compassion which must exist in all relationships...but, mostly, Arnold reminds us that compassion must first exist within ourselves.
There were some minor technical hiccups during the December 4th matinee...with one being an unreliable refrigerator having a "disagreement" with an equally unreliable shirt tail.
Also, some set changes were a bit less subtle than others and a few times items were heard being dropped from the backstage.
Yet, these elements did not serve to detract significantly from the overall enjoyment of the exceptional performances.
"TORCH SONG" runs until December 23 in Boston and is highly recommended for anyone seeking a compelling alternative to the more traditional holiday fare.
Approximately two hours, 50 minutes with one intermission.
Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA)
ABOUT THE SHOW
Hilarious and heart wrenching, "TORCH SONG" follows Arnold Beckoff on his odyssey to find happiness in New York.
All he wants is a husband, a child and a pair of bunny slippers that fit, but a visit from his overbearing mother reminds him that he needs one thing more: respect.
Join Arnold on this all-too-human journey about the families we’re born into, the families we choose, and the battles to bring them all home. Starring Moonbox alum and Elliot Norton Award nominee Peter Mill as Arnold Beckoff.
We proudly offer support services to family, friends, significant others and allies via 18+ support groups (currently meeting virtually and in person), a helpline, and a one-to-one program.
We also provide LGBTQ+ educational trainings and workshops in a wide range of settings, including schools, places of worship, workplaces, and community spaces.
Every day we work to achieve our vision of a world in which LGBTQ+ individuals are safe, supported, included, and equal in their families, in their communities, and in society.
ABOUT MOONBOX PRODUCTIONS
We’re exceptionally grateful for – and proud of – the opportunities we’ve had to connect with artists, advocates, and audiences throughout Greater Boston, and we’re also grateful for the recognition our artistic work has achieved on its independent merit. Since our founding, Moonbox has been honored by numerous laudatory reviews and raves from audiences and critics alike – garnering Moonbox numerous IRNE and Elliot Norton Awards ranging from Best Musical, Best Actor & Actress, to Best Scenic and Costume Design recognitions.
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