April 24, 2014
How far would you go to gain acceptance? Is the social advancement of one minority at the expense of another minority group just? These questions permeate Harvey Fierstein’s newest work, Casa Valentina produced by Manhattan Theatre Club. The result is a hilarious, yet deeply human evening of theater.
Picture this; a resort in the Catskills in 1962 where transvestite men can go and let their hair down (pun intended) The host of the inn, George and his wife Rita open their doors and hearts to these misunderstood men. George, a transvestite who doubles as Valentina, is married to Rita with full disclosure of his proclivity to dress in woman’s clothing. The dynamic couple are hosting their usual coffee clutch of secretive men in a usual weekend get-together. However, this weekend, Charlotte, a leader in the transvestite community with a ground-breaking society, is among them. Charlotte wants the “girls” to sign up and go public with their double lives. There are qualms with Charlotte’s request, but the most interesting is that by signing up, they would state that they are not homosexuals and do not condone the “repulsive” behavior of homosexuals. This indignation opens Pandora’s box and the men start to become unglued as the difference between black and white become blurred.
The cast is stellar. Mare Winningham, plays Rita with comedy and heart. She portrays Rita’s unique marriage well and pitches her deeply-hidden uneasiness with conviction. Patrick Page plays George/Valentina with great sincerity and passion. His longing for normalcy is tangible and something we can all relate to. However, it is Tom McGowan who steals the show. His flamboyance and impeccable comic-timing are some of the best Broadway has to offer. He is as poignant, as he is funny which makes him a delight to watch. When he does get serious, it is remarkably honest. His energy fills the room. He’s a real show-stopper!
Like all masterpieces the audience is taken on a great roller-coaster of a ride. Fierstein’s comedy is undeniable, yet it never overshadows the dramatic question that this play asks. When in the face of adversity, do we all stand together or do we throw each other under the bus for our own gain? Whatever you decide, the struggle of these men in 1962 is still something we relate to in 2014. Go see this show. It’s message is important and the issues it addresses are timeless. Oh yea, its hysterical too! Casa Valentina brings down the house!
Casa Valentina plays at the SAMUEL J. FRIEDMAN THEATRE 261 West 47th Street btwn Broadway & 8th Ave. http://www.casavalentina.com