Actor Michael Urie presents a nearly impossible task in the opening monologue of Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song, which opened on Broadway last week at The Helen Hayes Theater. How can the rest of the play be as brilliantly honest, vulnerable, funny and poignant than those first few moments with Arnold Beckoff?
Mr. Urie is equal parts flair, flamboyant and fractured, portraying a New York City drag queen struggling to overcome his deep-seated loneliness and feelings of inadequacy. Arnold is looking for “The International Stud” (emblazoned in neon as part of David Zinn’s effective, cinematic set design) but one that’s in for the long haul. He confesses, “Not once has someone said, ‘Arnold, I love you’, that I could believe. So I ask myself, ‘Do you really care?’ And the honest answer is, ‘Yes, I care. I care a great deal. But not enough.’”
We see Arnold evolve over the years, shedding his insecurities and obsessions with on-again-off-again boyfriend Ed (a mostly bland Ward Horton), taking on a new lover (a skimpily clad Michael Hsu Rosen), and scraping together the kind of life he wants for himself: one that includes family of choice by fostering a gay teen (a woefully miscast and misdirected Jack DiFalco) and defiantly declaring his own self-worth in a multi-pronged confrontation with his mother (Mercedes Ruehl).