Michae l Paris
Matthew Broderick, left, and Harvey Fierstein are pictured in a scene from Torch Song Trilogy.
Harvey Fierstein's successful Broadway play
has made it to the silver screen.
4e0 0% a: 0
Special to The Jewish News
eeting Harvey Fierstein is
like being doused with a
large pail of shockingly ice-
cold water. The candor and
passion of his comments on
homosexuality and on religion will
come as no surprise to the audiences
of Torch Song Trilogy, his Ibny Award-
winning play and new film.
"I say to interviewers, I am as
honest as possible. At least if you
don't say anything else in your inter-
view, say I didn't lie or pander;' he
rasps in that distinctive voice that has
been compared to the mating call of
The 34-year-old native of
Brooklyn shows wear from the many
interviews he is giving on this publici-
ty tour, and he smokes a number of
Fierstein studied painting at
Brooklyn's Pratt Institute but switch-
ed to theater after appearing as a
drag queen in Andy Warhol's Pork.
From acting he turned to writing and
created a number of plays with camp
titles like Flatbush Tosca, Cannibals
Don't Know Better and In Search of
the Cobra Jewels.
The partially autobiographical
Torch Song Trilogy originally took
shape in workshops before being pro-
duced off-Broadway in 1981 at the
tiny downtown New York Mama
Theater. The play went on to take
Broadway by storm winning
numerous awards for Fierstein as a
playwright and as an actor. His other
credits include writing the book for
the theatrical version of La Cage Aux
Folles, writing and starring in Safe
Sex on Broadway, and work on the
book of Legs Diamond, a new musical
starring Peter Allen.
Torch Song Trilogy weaves a tale
around nine years in the life of Arnold
Beckoff, a gay New Yorker as he seeks
love and respect in a heterosexual
Fierstein makes it clear that he
shares some traits with the fictional
Arnold, but that they differ in many
significant respects. "The problem
Arnold has with his mother (played
by Anne Bancroft) is that he is not
honest with her. But my mother and
I are very honest. We talk about not
only who I'm sleeping with, but who
I love — and that's something that Ar-
nold and his mother do not do,” ex-
Fierstein waxes eloquent about
Bancroft's contribution to the crea-
tion of the role as archetypal Jewish
mother (greatly expanded from the
play version) and about her contritu-
tion to the film.
"Anne planned a performance
that I think is incredibly brave and
brilliant;' enthused Fierstein. "The
danger with playing the mother, and
what often happens on stage, is an ac-
tress makes her this lovable Jewish
Neil Simon sort of stereotype. Anne
starts out as a stereotype but slowly
goes deeper and deeper to that hard
core of love she has for her son!'
A turning point for mother and
son in the film takes place at the
father's gravesite when Arnold at-
tempts to say Kaddish over his dead
lover's grave. "For Arnold to bury his
lover in a non-traditional way would
ogW. Maple, West - Bloonifiel
Jewish Ensemble Theatre, Sa int
and Itkeh, with Evelyn Orbae
and Robert Grossman,-
nesday through Jan. 22, Ja
25 29; S noopy, Sunday. and Jan.
22, admission. 661-1000.
205 W. Long Lake, Troy.
now through Sunday, Jan. 20-22,
Jan 27-29, admission. 644-8328.
Fisher Bldg., Detroit, Can Can,
with Chita Rivera, Wednesday
through Feb. 5, admission.
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS