The first play in Harvey Fierstein's Torch Song Trilogy introduces us to Arnold Beckoff. Arnold's life revolves around his stage performances, in which he dazzles audiences with his drag queen act and heartfelt renditions of torch songs, and his occasional visits to a gay bar in New York City called The International Stud. On one such visit he meets Ed Reiss. The two men are instantly attracted to each other, although complications arise when Ed tells Arnold he has met and fallen in love with a girl. The play's universal themes of love and loss are handled with insight and wit by Fierstein, who has interspersed the sparkling dialogue with live music and songs delivered by Lady Blues. International Stud is a funny, moving and powerful celebration of love. The playwright dedicates it to all those in New York who made the gay bar their home. He writes:
"I wish for each of them the courage to leave it when they can and the good sense to come back when they must"
In the second play of Harvey Fierstein’s brilliant Torch Song Trilogy we find Arnold, the drag queen, in a new relationship with 18 year old Alan, whilst Ed, the bi-sexual lover, has moved on with his new girlfriend, Laurel. However, Laurel is envious of Ed and Arnold’s shared past and is determined to probe its secrets. She invites Arnold and Alan to join her and Ed for a weekend at Ed’s upstate farm. The ensuing emotional and sexual complications provide ecstasy and angst in equal measure!
I think Harvey Fierstein’s great achievement in Torch Song is to take the most exotic of creatures, a Jewish, New York drag queen, and turn him into Everyman..like the play itself, the performance must come from the heart. The actor either has to be ready to reveal his visible soul, or don’t bother. (Antony Sher, Beside Myself)
The last play in Fierstein’s compelling Torch Song Trilogy is a perceptive and poignant take on parenting and family life. Five years have passed since Arnold and his lover Alan spent a memorable weekend with Ed and Laurel. Much has happened in the intervening years and, for Arnold especially, life has changed forever. Into his New York apartment has moved the 15 year old David, seeking love and guidance from his new foster parent. Arnold’s Ma, still grieving from the death of her husband, arrives on a visit from Florida and quickly demonstrates that parenting is neither an easy nor a comfortable experience.
With some of the funniest lines in the Trilogy and memorable performances from the talented cast, Widows and Children First! is not to be missed.