Off B'way Review: Harvey Fierstein in Martin Sherman’s ‘Gently Down the Stream’

 JOAN MARCUS

JOAN MARCUS

 

Can there be a romantic relationship between two gay men of different generations: one who grew up in the shadows, witnessing struggles, pain and hidden pleasures; the other growing up in the light, assuming gay liberation as a natural right? Martin Sherman’s tender, funny and unconventional romance, which begins in 2001 and spans 13 years, deals with seismic shifts in culture, attitudes and the differing expectations for happiness. In casting of gay icon Harvey Fierstein as Beau — who is himself a survivor of 20th century discrimination, battles and tragedies — the production takes on a special layer of veritas.

Directed with delicacy and grace by Sean Mathias, this three-actor play by Sherman, who penned the well-known 1979 play “Bent,” tells a decidedly different gay love story. This one, now playing at the Public Theater, is hopeful, healing and forward-looking, even as it reflects an old-fashioned boy-meets-boy template but with a new twist. The show should attract downtown audiences as well as those who like romances that are both cynical and sentimental — and, in this case, important too.

Beau is a 61-year-old American cocktail pianist, an ex-pat who has settled into a comfortable and solitary life in his small-but-tasteful London flat. Derek McLane’s set, warmly lit by Peter Kaczorowski, is dominated by its towering shelving packed with Beau’s compartmentalized history.

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