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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents "Casa Valentina" by Harvey Fierstein at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
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Manhattan Theatre Club Presents "Casa Valentina" by Harvey Fierstein at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Manhattan Theatre Club
Lynn Meadow, Artistic Director
Barry Grove, Exec. Producer

By Special Arrangement with:
Colin Callender, Robert Cole,
Frederick Zollo, The Shubert Organization

Casa Valentina
(Casa Valentina Website)

By Harvey Fierstein
Directed by Joe Mantello

At the
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
261 West 47th Street

Reed Birney, John Cullum, Gabriel Ebert
Lisa Emery, Tom McGowan, Patrick Page
Larry Pine, Nick Westrate, Mare Winningham

Scenic Design: Scott Pask
Costume Design: Rita Ryack
Lighting Design: Justin Townsend
Original Music & Sound Design: Fitz Patton
Hair, Wig, & Makeup Design: Jason P. Hayes
Casting: Caparelliotis Casting & Nancy Piccione
Fight Direction: Thomas Schall
Production Stage Manager: William Joseph Barnes
Additional Casting: Telsey + Company
General Manager: Florie Seery
Press: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Artistic Producer: Mandy Greenfield
Director of Artistic Development: Jerry Patch
Director of Marketing: Debra Waxman-Pilla
Director of Development: Lynne Randall
Production Manager: Joshua Helman
Artistic Line Producer: Lisa McNulty

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 26, 2014

Harvey Fierstein’s new play, Casa Valentina, produced right on the heels of his mesmerizing book for the musical, Kinky Boots, was an equally mesmerizing night at the theater. Who knew, that in the early 1960’s Catskills, on an average weekend, everyday men, fathers, husbands, executives, dentists, carpenters, would find excuses to congregate in boarding home living and dining rooms, dressed in chiffon, satin, and polished cotton, with jewelry, makeup, wigs, false breasts, high heels, perfume, and handbags, dining, singing, and dishing. But, ostensibly, as these were the sixties, and there were self-imposed limits, the cross-dressers just wanted to be girly girls, not gay guys. To be gay was forbidden, and in this play, there’s a treacherous element of crossing that line. Mr. Fierstein, who also wrote Torch Song Trilogy and La Cage aux Folles, is not one to hide from provocation. But, the characters of Casa Valentina have the pathos and poignancy of Mr. Fierstein’s A Catered Affair, which dealt with rejection and vulnerability. Those same themes surfaced here, tonight, threaded within this touching tapestry.

The married hosts of Chevalier d’Eon, a weekend resort retreat, are Rita (Mare Winningham) and George (Patrick Page), also known as Valentina. Their regular guests are the respectable Judge (Larry Pine), also known as Amy, the caustic Gloria (Nick Westrate), the witty Bessie (Tom McGowan), and the matronly Terry (John Cullum). The new kid in town is the ingénue Jonathan (Gabriel Ebert), who takes the name Miranda. The sophisticated Charlotte (Reed Birney) is a finely suited executive from the California organization that supports these particular venues. She’s on a mission that will be the catalyst that shifts the group’s level of trust and unearths hidden truths. Rita, as well, will delve into the worthiness of her marriage with George, as he’s so in love with his alter ego, Valentina. And, Eleanor (Lisa Emery), the Judge’s daughter, in a brief role, will toss psychic fire on the already wounded psyches of the formerly comfortable crowd. Each cross-dressing actor brings nuanced differentiation to his/her male and female characters, which morph before our eyes, thanks to a multi-level set and their open dressing rooms. Table mirrors take on huge relevance, as soon as sixties-era suitcases are unpacked. There’s even one collaborative “makeover”, akin to a bubbly reality show.

Joe Mantello has expertly directed for dual personalities of the men, who unpack their hidden selves from deep within their baggage. Scott Pask’s dual level home allows solitary moments to be sensitively shared, and Rita Ryack’s costumes are wonderfully authentic to early sixties “dressing up”. Justin Townsend’s lighting is warm and bright enough for upstairs clarity and rec room dimness, when “the girls” cut loose with their song and dance routines. Fitz Patton’s sound allows chatty conversation to be as crisp as downstairs rowdiness. And, Jason P. Hayes’ hair, wig, and makeup were outstanding all around. Kudos to Manhattan Theatre Club for this excellent and engaging presentation, and kudos to Harvey Fierstein.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at