DEAR HARVEY – Lee Strasberg Center – Los Angeles (West Hollywood) Theater Review

by Tony Frankel on October 13, 2010

in Theater-Los Angeles

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Dear Harvey Milk:

After you were assassinated in 1978 (along with San Francisco’s Mayor Moscone) the gay community responded with a peaceful candlelight march instead of a violent demonstration. It spoke to a population’s ability to deal with grief in an elegant, eloquent, and loving style – not unlike the current production of Dear Harvey at the Lee Strasberg Center. Patricia Loughrey has compiled a quilt of voices that pay homage to you, including interviews with people you knew and letters that you wrote yourself. It is, naturally, very flattering regarding your talent to inspire, all the while maintaining that you had your quirky side, too. It does not try to be a documentary (nor does it achieve the devastating effect of the oft overlooked 1984 Academy Award winner The Times of Harvey Milk but it is quite effective in its own right.

Director Anthony Frisina has waved a loving hand over the entire production, assembling an earnest cast that vacillates between eulogistic speeches and character-based reminisces. All the actors are efficient, but it seemed odd that gentle and emotional John Meeks was not trying to impersonate you, but Vash Boddie gave a startlingly wonderful rendition of one of your drag queen friends. Remember Cleve Jones, Harvey? Clifford Bañagale did Cleve with a straight-forward reading regarding Cleve’s inspiration for starting the AIDS Quilt that was surely one of the most emotionally resonant moments in the theatre. But without any more theatrical conceit than that, there were spots that became precariously close to plodding.

You would be most impressed with composer Thomas Hodges’ original music that accompanies Frisina’s fluid direction: the young student was so impressed with your story and what you stood for that he created music which is never maudlin, but rather evokes a melancholic tenderness, especially as played by Wayne Moore on piano and Jyvonne Haskin on cello.

Frisina should also be credited with the setting: a black box of a set with red metal folding chairs and candles festooning the stage: it is astounding what simplicity and love can do to support material that is basically a love letter to you. Although you may wish that there was more dramatic structure to the piece, I assure you that the audience left feeling uplifted and wistful. The show, like you, definitely left its mark.

Signed, A Reviewer.

tonyfrankel @

Dear Harvey closed on October 10.

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