PICK ASR! ~~ “Torch Song” – A Search for Love

By Cari Lynn Pace

Wikipedia defines a torch song as “a sentimental love song, typically one in which the singer laments an unrequited or lost love, either where one party is oblivious to the existence of the other, has moved on, or a romantic affair has affected the relationship.”

Harvey Fierstein adapted Torch Song from his original 1982 trilogy to sensitively expose what one gay man endures in his quest for love and belonging. Heavily infused with Fierstein’s wit and wisdom, it’s a thought-provoking glimpse into an alternative lifestyle, presented at Mill Valley’s Marin Theatre and directed by Evren Odcikin.

“…(a) thought-provoking glimpse into the universal urge for love …”

From above a dark stage, an invisible announcer intones, “Presenting Miss Virginia Ham.” A tall diva in drag (Dean Linnard as Arnold Beckoff) sashays into a spotlight and mimes a forgotten lovelorn song, milking it for laughs with exaggerated mannerisms.

Backstage, Arnold disrobes from his costume to share a rapid-fire soliloquy of his journey as a lovelorn drag queen. It’s been a rocky road, with Arnold’s mantle of hope always wrapped around him.

From L to R: Ed (Patrick Andrew Jones) and Laurel (Kina Kantor), Arnold (Dean Linnard) and Alan (Edric Young) in the “Fugue in a Nursery” portion of “Torch Song” at Marin Theatre, performing now through June 2, 2024. Photo credit: David Allen

Arnold is infatuated with a teacher, Ed, whose conflicting sexual preferences are convincingly channeled by Patrick Andrew Jones. Spurned by Ed, Arnold tries the seedy back rooms of anonymous sex. Dispirited, Arnold finds a handsome boy toy Alan (Edric Young). Arnold’s love fling ignites jealous sparks in Ed, without a satisfying result for either.

Ed and his new wife Laurel (Kina Kantor) have a hilarious repartee in a giant bed, sequentially populated by Arnold and Alan, then all four in every combination. The clever stage set is simple and superb at hiding the simulated sex acts.

From L to R: Ed (Patrick Andrew Jones) and Laurel (Kina Kantor), Arnold (Dean Linnard) and Alan (Edric Young) in the “Fugue “Torch Song” at Marin Theatre. Photo credit: David Allen

This reviewer found the scenes in Act I’s a tad long but the pacing was reinvigorated by Act II with its knockout stage set by Sarah Phykitt. Arnold’s apartment is now a haven for Ed, separated from his wife and still sorting out his life’s direction. They are joined by David (Joe Ayers) a rebellious young man adopted from the streets and now part of Arnold’s triad of family.

When Arnold’s mom Mrs. Beckoff (Nancy Carlin) shows up, the fur begins to fly. Mom thinks her gay son is not the best influence for a teenage boy. She lectures Arnold “David’s only been here six months and he’s already gay!” Arnold drolly replies “He came that way.”

From L to R: David (Joe Ayers) shows off his new look to Arnold (Dean Linnard) and Ed (Patrick Andrew Jones) in Marin Theatre’s “Torch Song.” Photo credit: David Allen

Mrs. Beckoff and Arnold are wary of one another, circling like two cats with claws. Mrs. Beckoff tries to accept Arnold’s unconventional lifestyle, urging “A conflict is never as permanent as a solution.” Despite a well-intended start, Arnold and Mrs. Beckoff have a knock-down battle. She spits out “You cheated me out of your life, and then you blame me for not being there.”

Fierstein’s acerbic witticisms continue to come fast and furiously in Act II. When Ed desperately seeks approval from Arnold, his reply is “Never fish for compliments in polluted waters.”

“Torch Song” is an eye-opening journey intended for adult audiences.

Kudos to Fierstein for this honest and thought-provoking glimpse into the universal urge for love.


ASR Writer & Editor Cari Lynn Pace is a voting member of SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle and writes theatre and lifestyle reviews for the Marinscope Community Newspapers throughout Marin County. Contact: pacereports100@gmail.com


ProductionTorch Song
Written ByHarvey Fierstein
Directed byEvren Odcikin
Producing CompanyMarin Theatre Company (MTC)
Production DatesThru June 2nd, 2024
Production AddressMarin Theatre Company
397 Miller Avenue
Mill Valley, CA
Telephone(415) 388-5200
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Aisle Seat Review PICK?YES! - for ADULTS ONLY
Other Voices ...
"... the semi-autobiographical story of Harvey Fierstein’s TORCH SONG has you laughing, crying, and laughing to keep from crying. If it doesn’t reflect your own experience, it surely reflects the experiences of someone you know. It’s emotional, revelatory, cathartic, and honest."
RVArt Review
"... Fierstein really knows how to shape a scene and end it on a button ..."
“Torch Song” has its moments of pure sitcom — there’s a protracted scene about the awfulness of Ed’s cooking — which you can only grin and bear. But it also incorporates shadows of tragedy, including a plot turn involving a brutal hate crime, that feel sadly topical."
The New York Times