An AIDS widower confronts the ex-wife of his recently deceased lover in Harvey Fierstein’s 1987 one-act On Tidy Endings, certain to be one of the most powerful dramatic offerings at this year’s Hollywood Fringe.
Endings are far from tidy in Fierstein’s play. To begin with, Collin’s decade-long marriage to Marion ended about as untidily as imaginable when he came out, then moved out on his wife and their seven-year-old daughter Jenny. Moreover, though the once married couple’s friendship managed somehow to endure, it was sorely tried when Collin moved in with Arthur.
Untidiest of all was the ending brought about by Collin’s untimely death following month after messy month of incapacitation, incontinence, and worse, with Arthur as his sole caretaker.
Now the day has come for a financially strapped Arthur to sign papers providing him with half the profits from the sale of the apartment he and Collin shared, the other half going to his lover’s widow (or ex, depending on how you view things).
Not surprisingly, Arthur and Marion’s brief encounter proves the furthest thing from tidy.
Written about a decade before protease inhibitors changed everything for gay men like Arthur and Collin, On Tidy Endings might be considered by some to be a “period piece” if not out-and-out dated. Not so. Fiersteins’ one-act remains a potent tribute to the countless men and women for whom words like courage and valor seem woefully insufficient. As for the resentment Marion still harbors, ask any wife who only yesterday discovered her husband’s truth if On Tidy Endings is the tiniest bit passé.
Under Sara Wagner’s skilled direction, Kimberly Patterson and Michael Mullen’s richly layered performances reveal the complexities of a woman and man connected for life by the man they both loved. Kristin Towers-Rowles is steely perfection as Marion’s subtly homophobic lawyer, and Makayla Rowles is a natural as Jenny.
Production design (Patterson and Mullen’s props and set, Mullen’s costumes, and Jason Duplissea’s sound) is stylishly first-rate for Fringe.
After nearly thirty years, On Tidy Endings retains both its power and its relevance. The Hollywood Fringe is fortunate to welcome it back.
June 13, 2015