Butterflies you definitely need to run not walk to Manhattan Theatre Club's Samuel J Friedman Theatre (they are a not-for-profit theatre) to catch Casa Valentina a World premiere play by Harvey Fierstein and Directed by Joe Mantello. It is a Tony Award Nominated Best Play and I got to find out for myself just why!
|Left to Right: (Seated) Patrick Page as Valentina, (Standing) Reed Birney as Charlotte, Nick Westrate as Gloria, John Cullum as Terry, and Larry Pine as Amy. Casa Valentina (Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy)|
This is an incredible ensemble cast and each actor truly embodied their character perfectly. Mare Winningham is a perfect Rita (holding her marriage and her world together as best as she knows how), Patrick Page who portrays her husband George as well as Valentina, gives just as to much the role when he isn't saying a word as his expressions many times says it all. He embodied Valentina beautifully, and his struggles as George and with his own sexuality was amazing to watch!
Reed Birney is a most believable Charlotte. When she tells the 'girls' "I've gone to jail so that you don't have to. I've bared my soul on the battlement, dodged arrows of judgement to shield you." - you understand that she truly believes her way is the right way - for her it's that black and white but sadly those 'shades of grey' catch up with us all! Tom McGowan is a loveable 'Bessie'- while she isn't the oldest in the group she is like the Mother Hen in her own way. John Cullum bring us 'Terry' who I have to say has some of the best lines including:
"Boys, in my day, spent their first years in dresses and gradually worked their way up to knickers and eventually long pants. But a common punishment was to demote a mischievous child back into petticoats. They thought the embarrassment would shame the child into obedience. Oh, the terrible things I'd do to get punished and wear my precious gowns."
Larry Pine plays The Judge/Amy and it is The Judge that has the most to lose should his secret ever come to light. Lisa Emory portrays Eleanor, The Judge's daughter, (Eleanor of course wants nothing to do with her dad's 'other life')
Gabriel Ebert delivers a perfect Jonathan/Miranda a naive newcomer to the resort. And it is when the girls rally to give Jonathan a proper makeover and transition to a more polished Miranda that the sisterhood truly come together.
Last but certainly not least, Nick Westrate brings us Gloria - "the pretty girl, but irrestitible boy" - sharp, savvy, sassy and un-apologetic, he lit up the stage!
You grow to care for them all. The hallmark of both great writing and great acting! Finding a place in this world where you can truly be yourself is hard enough, but when being yourself goes against the 'norm', when do you stand up and stand out?
There may never be a 'right time' or a 'right place' but their search for acceptance and happiness in their personal 'Garden of Eden' gets threatened, not so much by the sorority leader but by a changing society. I didn't think of the sorority leader so much as a snake in their Garden but as a mirror. She forced everyone to look right at themselves and forced them to decide. A secret Shangri-La or a life lived out loud? And sometimes that's NOT as easy a choice as it may seem.
Harvey wrote two of my favorite Broadway Shows, La Cage Aux Folles and most recently Kinky Boots, and he just has a knack for human stories, this one does it without music, it is raw and powerful, and often times the actors say as much without words as they did with them.
Don't miss this play!
FTC Disclosure: Ascending Butterfly was provided with Casa Valentina Press Tickets for Editorial Consideration, all opinions are 100% my own! I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255 - Guides Concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising, you may check our Giveaway and Disclosure Page for additional information regarding Ascending Butterfly Disclosure.