This new play is inspired by events that took place in and around the Chevalier d’Eon Resort in the Catskill Mountains, New York State, in 1962 at time of racial segregation in the USA and when homosexuality was a crime. Fierstein has brought an interesting group of men who dress and identify themselves as female to life with vitality and empathy.
These men thoroughly enjoyed and indulged in dressing as women. Some of them left their family homes in the big cities on the weekends to be with the group of like-minded men, fussing over make-up and enjoying the purchase of a new frock. At first I was puzzled as to where this play would travel, granted, there are men who find this appealing in life but usually keep this private part of their lives just that, private. I was not really interested in a bunch of middle class men back in the 1960s talking about the latest fabric to wear in some fancy little resort in the mountains.
But the hook to this play was when the leader of the group and the man who ran the resort George/Valentina (Patrick) began to urge the group of men to disassociate themselves from the homosexual community and actually condemn it by signing a petition to promote their cross dressing way of life as moral and normal and not have it tarnished by society assuming that they were homosexual themselves. Each of the men took their stance and most fought against the proposed petition. Some because their real identities for the purpose of legal requirements would have to be revealed and others because the homosexual community was a godsend to them when they were coming out and initially exploring their playing with gender identity.
Judge/Amy (Larry Pine) was rambunctious in his protesting. His guarded life as a man of law would be at risk. The arguments between he and the men were thought provoking and many ideas of what is it to be a community and the obvious homophobia back in those times was engaging. Fierstein captures a time of fear and doubt extremely well.
Gabriel Ebert with his portrayal of Jonathon/Miranda was a vehicle for much of the humour in the play. His induction into the group and his consequent navigation of his position within it was a highlight.
A new play by Harvey Fierstein
Manhattan Theatre Club at the Friedman Theatre, Broadway, NYC.
Photo by Henry Leutwyler