Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Torch Song Trilogy


Harvey Fierstein was out way back when, before it was okay to be out, because it was usually a career killer. He didn’t give a shit. Being gay and swish was and is so much a part of him that toning his act down would probably have killed him. (Is swish a non-PC word now? It means acting in an exaggeratedly feminine way, and I don’t see it as insulting. Back in the day we had an extremely swish guy named Tinkerbell as a tenant in the Haight-Ashbury. Really sweet fellow.) But it has worked out well for him. He is highly regarded on Broadway, and has done okay in the movies. He wrote the book for the musical version of La Cage aux Folles. With his voice, which sounds like a frog speaking from deep in his throat, he is certainly a distinctive figure.

This is the story of a transvestite who is the queen of the drag shows in New York, and his various romances. As you might guess, a lot of it is tragic. It wasn’t easy being gay back then, and of course is not a bed of roses today, but it seems to be a lot better. His lovers are played by Brian Kerwin and Matthew Broderick, both straight men. Well, I’m sure it would have been hard to find two actors as good as those who would admit to being gay. You work with what you have. It is touching, with a great performance by Harvey, outrageous costumes, and fun musical numbers, mainly (surprise!) torch songs. My favorite is a funny little number about bulimia, where he explains how he keeps the weight off: “I Puke.”