Review: TORCH SONG at Marin Theatre

What did our critic think of TORCH SONG at Marin Theatre?

By: May. 15, 2024
Review: TORCH SONG at Marin Theatre
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Marin Theatre closes out their 2023/24 season with a newly revised production of Harvey Fierstein’s Tony Award-winning Torch Song. A smash hit in 1982, the original trilogy opened the floodgate of LGBTQ representations in theatre, film, and television with its universal themes of self-acceptance, chosen family, and equality. Presented in two acts, Torch Song centers on Arnold Beckoff, a Jewish, witty drag queen looking for love. Brilliantly channeling this funny, cynical, and often bitter character is Dean Linnard, an award-winning actor making his Marin Theatre debut. And what a debut it is – Linnard is captivating every moment he’s onstage and carries the weight of the production with an incandescent performance.

Review: TORCH SONG at Marin Theatre
Patrick Andrew Jones, Kina Kantor, Dean Linnard and Edric Young.

Based on torch songs from the 1920’s, Arnold seems to be living in a fantasy world of emotional dramas. In act one we see his comical exposure to gay sex backrooms, his awkward romance with bisexual Ed (Patrick Andrew Jones), and his desperation to find love. A die-hard romantic, we empathize with Arnold, who is more than just a drag queen becoming a universal common man. Linnard is amazing with his heavy Brooklyn accent, righteous anger, and self-deprecation.

Review: TORCH SONG at Marin Theatre
Dean Linnard, Patrick Andrew Jones, and Joe Ayers.

There’s a hilarious bedroom scene involving Arnold, his new lover Alan (Edric Young), his ex Ed and Ed’s new lover Laurel (Kina Kantor). It’s a comical riff on the 1969 film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. Act two finds Arnold a widow, Alan being murdered in a tragic hate crime. He’s got a foster kid on a trial run and struggling to create a chosen family. Ed is living in their flat, being separated from Laurel. Enter a visit by Arnold’s mother (Nancy Carlin), a disapproving homophobe still grieving the loss of her husband.

Review: TORCH SONG at Marin Theatre
Joe Ayers (David), Dean Linnard (Arnold) and Nancy Carlin (Mrs. Beckoff).

The sparks fly as Arnold confronts his mother’s dismissal of his lifestyle. She is horrified when Arnold compares his loss to his mother’s, a denial of gay relationships that continues to this day. Joe Ayers is adorable as young David, a wiser than his age gay high schooler who feels comfortable with Arnold. Torch Song had a revival in 2018 in its abbreviated form and even though it was set in the 70’s, its themes are still prescient today unfortunately.

Torch Song continues through June 2nd. Tickets available at marintheatre.org or call the box office at 415-388-5208.

Photo credit: David Allen




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