BOTTOM LINE: A history lesson about Harvey Milk that everyone should see. It's like the Biography channel but on stage and totally engrossing.
Dear Harvey is a history lesson about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to a major political office. Served up in a Ken Burns documentary style, playwright Patricia Loughrey has culled together a script based on the 30+ interviews she conducted with people who either knew Milk or were simply inspired by him. Director Dan Kirsch guides the ensemble of seven actors as they portray various people who relay their memories or short stories about the gay icon.
All seven actors have a chance to shine. Vash Boddie makes a drag queen named Nicole Murray-Rameriz come to life without needing a costume to do it. Katharine McLeod tells a story of her character coming to terms with her lesbian identification and makes it funny and true. Ira Spector is consistently warm, likable and funny no matter which character he is playing. Lynne Rosenberg is subtle and charming as an older lesbian activist explaining how Harvey Milk wanted more people to know the "local lesbian." Scott Striegel had more than one audience member sniffling as he played Cleve Jones and told of how Milk's assassination inspired him to create the AIDS Memorial Quilt. The tableau formed at the end of this vignette is very simple but very affective.
However, the most touching moment of the show is when the audience hears of a 19 year old who was inspired by Harvey Milk. This same young man goes on to write the music that plays throughout the performance. The realization that someone who died in 1978 can still affect generations today is very powerful.
In a show that is mostly monologues and vignettes, there is the potential for monotony, but director Kirsch keeps this from happening. The photos of real people and events projected behind the actors makes the show feel like the coolest Power Point presentation that you wish your history teacher would have given you. The show becomes tangible. Dear Harvey would have made Harvey Milk proud. It makes you think about how some people are mistreated in the world and it makes you want to do something to change it. You feel that inspiration when you see this show.
(Dear Harvey plays at Soho Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street, through August 28st. Remaining performances are Sunday 8/22 at 4:30pm, Tuesday 8/24 at 5:45pm, Thursday 8/26 at 10pm, and Saturday 8/28 at 8:15pm. For more information visit go to their Facebook page. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door, and are available at FringeNYC.com, by calling 866.468.7619, or in person at FringeCENTRAL, located at 1 East 8th Street at 5th Avenue. There is NO LATE SEATING for Fringe NYC shows.)