By Harvey Fierstein. Darlinghurst Theatre Company. Eternity Playhouse, Dalringhurst (NSW). July 29 – August 26, 2018
This is a stunning production where writing, direction, design and acting come exquisitely together. It takes Harvey Fierstein’s beautifully written script and his very delicately drawn characters through the maelstrom of discrimination and the fight for acceptance. Conceived in the late 1970s, when homophobia and vilification reigned, Fierstein’s trilogy was way ahead of its time, an inspiration to others to “imagine the possibilities that could lead to positive changes”. His character Arnold’s dream of a gay couple raising a family seemed inconceivable then – but was a harbinger of a brighter, more tolerant future.
Stephen Colyer’s production of this iconic trilogy gives it the elegance, lustre and sophistication that “the chutzpah of Fierstein’s creative spirit” deserves.
The three plays are funny, witty, warm … yet heart-breakingly realistic. This revival by Stephen Colyer of his 2013 production finds the all of this and more. His direction is tight, his choreography beautifully timed and coordinated so precisely with the lighting effects designed by the creative Benjamin Brockman, that at some moments the audience reaction is whispered audibly. The skilful alliance between sound designer and musical director achieved by Nate Edmondson and Phil Scott is testament to their innovation and vast theatrical experience.
Designers Imogen Ross (set) and Katja Handt (costume) endorse the collaboration that is a feature of this production. Together they have made colour a facet that unites the action. Ross has designed a set that is effectively workable and dexterously evokes the ambiance of each play. She plays with colours and props and moves furniture cleverly. In the interval before the final play – Widows and Children – the stage crew nimbly transforms the stage, moving in tall, colourful flats, changing curtains on windows, setting up a workable kitchen bench and positioning the many props that are used or referred to in the text. Handt picks up the colours and images in costumes (especially the colour-coordinated PJs in Fugue in a Nurser!) that define the characters and the time. Watch for the rabbits that cunningly conjure the charm of Arnold’s new apartment in Widows and Children.
The cast move with impeccable precision in intricately rehearsed blocking that pinpoints tense moments. Deftly delivered dialogue defines the characters’ fears and the fragility of the lives they live in a hetero-normal, bigoted society. Humour, included cleverly by Fierstein, and subtly accented by Colyer, endows the characters with the guts and resolve they need just to get by.
Simon Corfield expertly portrays Fierstein’s hero, the feisty but blighted Arnold Beckoff, through three soul-baring hours of changing emotions. His timing is faultless. . . . .