4/23/2013 8:08 PM
Surprisingly relevant, Fierstein’s trilogy of young, confused gay love, the mess of being in a relationship, and the distance between a mother and son has a great, big pulsing heart underneath it, but doesn’t sacrifice grit for sentimentality. Written “before AIDS,” the ghost of the disease hovers over the play without actually being about it. Instead, it charts the journey of a young gay drag performer, Arnold, who wants more than hookups in the backrooms of seedy gay bars.
While the piece was written in the late 70s/early 80s, and has clear traces of that history and culture, it humanizes the current political struggle coursing through society today. Each play within this sprawling trilogy has its own unique theatricality to it, highlighting each phase of Arnold’s life: the loneliness of interwoven monologues in part one; two couples sharing a bed, but not always sharing conversation in part two; and part three, emotionally the heaviest, sits inside a more accessible, sitcom-like set up providing a firm foundation for the hard conversations contained within.
Each character might at first read like a cliché, but the playwright writes up to and through each one with great care. Sometimes the writing can be clunky, obvious, and lack finesse, but it keeps moving and you forgive some of those flaws quickly. The style is clear, the jokes are satisfying, and its culmination is surprisingly moving. All of the relationships have stakes and weight, and ultimately, it’s not just a gay play, but a relationship play more accessible than you might think at first glance.