Friday, March 24, 2023
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Gently Down the Stream - Starring Harvey Fierstein

Oscar E. Moore “from the rear mezzanine” for Talk

Can a 62 year old gay expatriate ex-cocktail pianist lounging around in a book lined London flat find true love – finally find his soul mate – again - after so many heartbreaks along the gay love canal of life via the internet?

That is the question investigated by playwright Martin Sherman in this three character genteel and romantic/historical menage a trois fairy tale that has recently opened at The Public Theater directed by Sean Mathias (with some odd choices) and featuring the versatile eccentric Gabriel Ebert and Christopher Sears.

The show curtain is a lovely green velvet and fringed old fashioned artifact with draw-strings with foot lights casting a soft enveloping glow. Preparing us for who knows? Looking very much like a British Music Hall. But this is not a musical although the recordings of Mabel Mercer nicely permeate the production.

Harvey as Beau (with a Louisiana drawl and his well-known voice of gravel) makes his entrance to warm applause. Gabriel as the 28 year old bi-polar lawyer Rufus (mergers and acquisitions) enters in his black undies and warms our hearts. He is quick to embrace and fawn over Beau. He adores older men. He knows Mabel Mercer. He acts like a teenage puppy dog. And before you know it he is moving in. He has merged and acquired.

That’s when Beau takes center stage to relate some of his past history and past loves in the first of many monologues describing what it was like to be a gay man way back when in the dark ages. A very different more serious Harvey than we are accustomed to.

Harvey is a master story teller and these monologues are the highlight of the evening. James Baldwin. Larry Kramer. Judy Peabody. Mabel Mercer. The YMCA. Aids.

The years pass by quickly. Rufus meets another. Younger than himself. A performance artiste named Harry (Christopher Sears) – a charismatic chap with a sparkling earring and lots of tats.

Beau understands. They all remain friends. He is even best man at their nuptials in this meandering patchwork quilt of love in the gay world of 2014 as opposed to the gay world of 2001 when the play begins. More surprises ensue.

Lots of territory is covered. Maturity for Rufus. A walker for Beau. Harry gets to sing “The Man I Love” but I wasn’t much moved by all the goings on except for Mr. Fierstein’s monologues. He sure knows how to relate a good lesson in gay history. Harvey has lived through it all.

Is there a happy ending in this upstream battle for open acceptance and equal rights? I hope so. I believe so. But it sure ain’t easy.

Through May 14th.

Photo: Joan Marcus

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