Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Harvey Fierstein in "A Catered Affair"

1st\NW Quadrant The Approval Matrix

Synopsis: In the Bronx in 1953, young lovers Janey Hurley and Ralph Halloran decide to get married. Timing is inauspicious, since the bride's brother has just been killed in the Korean War. The couple does not want a large, expensive wedding, and the bride's family needs the money to save their family business. Her hard-working taxi-driver father, Tom Hurley, has been saving for years to buy his own cab. But a dinner with the groom's wealthier family leads Aggie, the bride's mother, to decide to give the couple a huge formal affair, committing her and Tom's life's savings and bereavement check to a lavish wedding with an extensive guest list.

Aggie feels guilty about having neglected Janey and sees an opportunity to plan the white wedding that she herself never had. The bride's gay Uncle Winston, initially furious at having been left off the original guest list, becomes a support for Aggie. Relationships are strained to the breaking point under the pressure of costly bridesmaids' bouquets, cake layers and each detail. -- Wikipedia

Fierstein, the quadruple Tony Award winner and perpetual force of nature, both gives and takes away in his adaptation and his performance. He shifts the balance of the piece toward Winston, the unmarried uncle and boarder, the type who used to be euphemistically called a "confirmed bachelor."

It's a pleasure to see Fierstein, a hulking yet comforting figure in a big brown suit and a suitcase, haunting the family crisis like Willy Loman in an Alfred Hitchcock profile. Of course, there is that voice, the echoing sound of a bumpy boulder barreling through a dark tunnel.

But the character feels too flip for the era, an anachronism as jarring as the threat to "shop 'til I drop." Winston, who wants the big wedding, observes, "Resigning oneself to small is sad. Requesting it is tragic." He could be talking about the show. -- Newsday

A CATERED AFFAIR. Book by Harvey Fierstein, score by John Bucchino, directed by John Doyle. At the Walter Kerr Theatre, 219 W. 48th St., Manhattan. Tickets $29.50- $119.50; 212-239- 6200.

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