Onyx delivers a timeless message of love in ‘Torch Song Trilogy’

Love hurts: Neel and Hermening in Torch Song Trilogy.
Jacob Coakley

While massive swaths of gay culture have changed since Harvey Fierstein premiered his Torch Song Trilogy, Part 1: International Stud in 1978, the romance at its heart will still ring true for anyone who has chosen “It’s complicated” on Facebook.

Arnold (played by Michael Neel in Onyx Theatre’s production) is a young torch song singer, a hopeless romantic in search of his international stud. That he meets bisexual Ed (Christopher Hermening), who’d be an ideal lover if it weren’t for his habit of dating women, is more tough luck for him. Neel is the right age to play Arnold and has the youthful impetuousness and daftness to want to stick around in a doomed relationship—but not the hard-bitten carriage to make the relationship seem tragic.

Hermening is appropriately confused, seductive and standoffish as Ed, pulling off the absolute denial necessary for a character trapped in leading two very different lives.

The Details

Torch Song Trilogy
Three stars
Onyx Theatre, 732-7225
September 8-10, 8 p.m.; September 11, 4 p.m.; $15

In order to provide commentary on the action of the play, as well as provide an insight into Arnold’s personal mythology, the show is punctuated by several torch songs. A tuxedoed Eric Eichorst provided accompaniment with Olga Gomez Rios on vocals. Unfortunately, Rios was not up to the songs. Her passes through them, especially at the top of the show, were uncomfortable.

But the center of the play is Arnold’s heart—his search for one shining love, and the comedic and wrenching places that takes him. That struggle shines even brighter against the patina history has written on this play, as a universal, timeless lament of love, like a classic torch song.


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