Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Entertaining

About the show

The Public Theater presents Tony winner Harvey Fierstein in this world premiere drama about Beau, an expat pianist living in London who meets Rufus, a young lawyer, at the dawn of the Internet dating revolution.

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After a life spent recovering from the disappointment and hurt of loving men in a world that refused to allow it, Beau is determined to keep his expectations low with Rufus. But Rufus comes from a new generation of gay men who believe happiness is as much their right as anyone else’s. What Beau assumed would be just another fling grows into one of the most surprising and defining relationships of his life.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

The New York Times

"For a show about the transmission of gay culture, casting the creator of 'Torch Song Trilogy'...means that your lead actor’s baggage (in the best sense of the term) becomes an integral part of the story...This may all sound like peripheral information, but it’s impossible to ignore as it places the audience in a hall of mirrors that refracts and amplifies the new play’s modest charms. The show’s allure derives almost entirely from Fierstein’s fairly restrained, impeccably timed performance." Full Review


“Harvey Fierstein gives an exceptionally warm, tender and dramatically textured performance…Gabriel Ebert has a playful charm and a casual sexiness as Rufus…As their relationship changes, performance artist Harry (appealingly cocky Christopher Sears) enters the picture…Director Sean Mathias' sensitively played production is set in designer McLane's depiction of Beau's comfortably stately flat, with towering bookshelves and framed vintage photos lending a sense of history.” Full Review

Time Out New York

“Since Beau is played by the marvelous Fierstein, the time we spend in his history is engaging—at least until Sherman places him, Forrest Gump–like, at the scene of a real-life 1970s tragedy. Will younger audiences to whom this cultural-preservationist work seems tacitly oriented—much of it will be familiar to older ones—find it interesting? I’d like to imagine so. But the play is essentially passive. It doesn’t sink or swim; for better or worse, it bobs in currents of the past.” Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

“Sadly unconvincing…The effervescent, compulsively ingratiating Fierstein is hardly credible as a dour downer…Hampering both performances further is Sherman’s dialogue, so stilted it lurches…At least the bits with Beau and Rufus bear some resemblance to drama, albeit a highly attenuated and bald form of it. What these bits alternate with is worse…Even at 100 minutes seems to take longer to rehash the history than it took to live it in the first place.” Full Review


“Works like these have a tendency to feel clumsy, with the hand and opinions of the author often apparent in heavy, broad strokes. Admittedly, ‘Gently Down the Stream’ walks a tightrope between didactic and dramatic. But overall, it's a warm, lovely play about opening your heart, and Sean Mathias' production is gentle and absorbing. The same can be said of Fierstein's performance, his best ever…His quietly devastating, beautiful turn gives the play its gravity and its heart.” Full Review


“A tender, funny and unconventional romance…Directed with delicacy and grace by Sean Mathias...Fierstein offers one of his best—and most finely measured—performances...Not discounting how he lands every laugh with perfect delivery, Fierstein is most effective in his haunting monologues, especially in his benediction that speaks to remembering the past—its joys and its sorrows—while ultimately embracing a more hopeful and gentle future." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

“Intimate and, in its own way, epic…It has been far, far too long since Harvey Fierstein has taken the stage, and 'Gently Down the Stream' is a powerful reminder of what we've been missing…The role of Beau fits him so well that one suspects Sherman wrote it with Fierstein in mind...Sean Mathias directs the proceedings with the steadiest of hands, making sure that Sherman's wit is felt, but always probing more deeply, highlighting the almost unbelievable progress the gay community has made.” Full Review

New York Theater

"Much of 'Gently' is taken up with...rather awkwardly inserted monologues about old lovers meeting tragic ends and sad moments in gay history...Add in the references to AIDS and the crystal meth epidemic among gay men, and the play starts to feel like a forced crash course in gay life...It’s been just 14 years since MA became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage...We may have to wait for our dramatists to fashion from this new reality searing dramas with sophisticated insights." Full Review

Front Row Center

“There is something about watching Harvey Fierstein that makes you sit up and take notice…There are some remarkable monologues about the past that Fierstein infuses with grace, dignity, and truth…It is these monologues that give the play a backbone...The past, told by a griot who was there, is a living, breathing entity that fills us like fresh oxygen…The three men become a loyal triumvirate that is a bit saccharine, as if the playwright wanted to be certain we got the lesson.” Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

“A play rich in moments of pathos and humor…It's always wonderful to see Fierstein back on stage. But it's hard to shake the feeling that ‘Gently Down the Stream’ might have been a more satisfying play without him...Sherman's writing becomes pedantic as he shoehorns in chunks of historical perspective…The play is always engaging, and there's no doubting the sincerity of its intent. But it's too much of a structurally awkward, speechy patchwork to be dramaturgically convincing.” Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

“Touching without ever becoming maudlin, which is no small feat. Sherman is less smooth at integrating the history into his tale that drives so much of what occurs…A series of spotlit monologues that, though well constructed, bellow ‘context’ rather than whisper it. There is eventually a payoff, but it comes late, and is confusingly handled…Sherman needs much less force to drive home his points than he uses. Fierstein and Ebert are wonderful, though.” Full Review


“‘Gently’ is a kind of memory play and a work of prodigious challenge to the actor playing Beau, who has several long, beautifully wrought narrative speeches. Under Sean Mathias’ exquisite direction this enormously moving play is a reminder, as if it were needed, of the depthless well of Fierstein’s talent…Here he is, acting up a storm with gentle sensitivity and passion.” Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

“A sentimental and moving personal tale…It’s a beautiful written piece that wears its heart on its sleeve…Fierstein does an impeccable job reeling us in, and keeping us attached. It’s not a perfectly crafted story, as it feels like Sherman is trying too hard to check off all the boxes in the history of gay advancements...The ending feels forced, or at least too convenient, but it gives Fierstein and Sherman a beautiful opportunity to wrap things up emotionally and historically.” Full Review


“As firmly yet sensitively directed by Sean Mathias, this works quite well — whether viewed as story within a history lesson, or a history lesson within a love story. Naturally, it's a plus to have Harvey Fierstein on board…A bit schmaltzy he may be, and so is the story, but it's also sweet and touching…Gabriel Ebert's contribution to the play's most affecting moments is not to be discounted.” Full Review

Bob's Theater Blog

“Ebert once again proves that he is one of the finest actors of his generation…Listening to Fierstein’s raspy voice for an extended period has always been a problem for me...That's a lot to get through to appreciate the subtle acting beneath…Sherman’s dialogue sparkles with wit, but his structure is a bit lumpy…Mathias manages to minimize the play’s structural problems. While the play doesn’t represent Sherman at his best, it still provides an entertaining and occasionally moving evening." Full Review

The Wrap

“Sean Mathias directs, and while nobody could make 'Gently Down the Stream' anything but a pity party, it might help if Ebert had been directed not to skip around on stage so much…And then there’s Fierstein. When he’s sending up a heterosexual woman in ‘Hairspray,’ he’s fun. Playing a gay man, he offers tedium and sympathy.” Full Review


“Neither a typical nor overly believable romance…The crux of the play is a lesson in the many decades of gay history, delivered primarily in the form of periodic monologues delivered with stunning power by Fierstein…You can’t help but be riveted by his recollections...Sherman doesn’t quite know when to get off the stage…He adds on one more, all-too-cutesy scene that wraps everything up in a brightly colored bow.” Full Review


“Directed with a light touch for melodrama by Sean Mathias…A sentimental and straightforward but enjoyable and — dare we say it? — useful overview of the radical changes in gay life from the mid-20th century to today…Fierstein is an original, a star presence who manages to be instantly identifiable while convincing us he’s someone we never met before. How delightful to see him here as a lust object pursued in a romance.” Full Review

Daily Beast

"This Public Theater play is both a memorialization, and a bringing back to life—both of 70-plus years of LGBT history and of Beau...This is Fierstein’s show—that voice commands a stage, and he tinkers with it too, ranging from an angry, booming bass to playful theatrical camp...'Gently Down The Stream' emphasizes that embracing equality and openness should not mean negating or forgetting the grittier indignities and battles endured and conducted by others." Full Review


"An imperfect, but very moving new work...Some of the storytelling here is clunky, and Fierstein seems to have been cast more for his connection to gay history than his ability to master a New Orleans accent. But Sherman is wrestling with complicated ideas, about the struggles of a generation of gay men to make sense of their lives, especially as social attitudes have changed radically in recent decades. The show moves from hope to heartbreak, and it ends poised on a pinpoint between the two." Full Review

Out Magazine

"How the gay past blesses the gay present is the crux of the play...The play seems intent on checking off every major experience of the gay movement, with references to James Baldwin, the New Orleans gay club fire, Larry Kramer, AIDS, crystal meth, gender reassignment, marriage, and parenting. I was amazed that Beau didn’t find himself at Stonewall too. It becomes too much, but the comic parts are effective, and the show is buoyed by Fierstein’s star presence and expert timing." Full Review

Village Voice

“Both the stories being told and the new chapter of gay history being lived seem a little predictable, a little too issue-bound and detached from life. Fierstein gives his iconic presence full play; Ebert, always convincing, listens here with convincing eagerness; and Christopher Sears is effective as the brash youngster…But the enterprise seems hidebound and pat; the vibrancy that gave gay life its meaning has vanished from the bare recollections pasted in this dramatic scrapbook." Full Review

This Week in New York Blog

"Fierstein is brilliant as Beau, displaying a wide range of strong emotions and opinions about nearly everything...Ebert goes toe-to-toe with Fierstein...Mathias creates a welcoming environment for the audience, inviting us into these characters’ private lives...Sherman has written an engaging romantic comedy that uses clever subtlety to make its important points, a lovely play with a stirring performance by a theater legend making a triumphant return to the stage." Full Review

Theatre Reviews by John Clum

"Martin Sherman's sweet, funny play traces a decade in their ever-changing relationship...I've never been Harvey Fierstein's greatest fan but here he gives a beautifully modulated performance. There's some of the Fierstein shtick, but moments that are genuinely moving. Gabriel Ebert, as always, is charismatic onstage...'Gently Down the Stream' isn't a masterpiece but is well worth seeing, particularly for the teamwork of Fierstein and Ebert who obviously love performing together." Full Review


"Despite the play's best intentions to have us root for Beau to get out of his own way and embrace the love around him, his inability to do so makes 'Gently Down the Stream' a very monotonous journey...None of this is to say that watching 'Gently Down the Stream' is a particularly bad experience. The performances are strong...But in the end, 'Gently Down the Stream' didn't rock the boat enough." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Banal, Disappointing, Cliched, Insipid

See it if you love Harvey Feinstein. Although, he is hard to understand and his acting is one-dimensional.

Don't see it if You don't like plays about gay men or if you want to be entertained. This one missed the mark.

Clever, Great acting, Relevant, Indulgent, Great writing

See it if you're seeking gay history to be preserved & appreciated through play-writing. Though a bit navel-gazing and "convenient," generally good.

Don't see it if you're unfamiliar with distinct moments in American queer history.

Thought-provoking, Indulgent, Slow, Well acted, Understated

See it if you are interested in lgbtq rights and personal histories, a moving creation of a non-traditional family

Don't see it if you're not interested in mostly told (not shown) stories of the rapid changes within a lifetime of love & heartbreak

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Slow

See it if You love studying human connection and relationships intensely. A great example of living-in-the-moment acting.

Don't see it if You like a lot of characters and plot. That said, it's a wonderful play still and I'd highly recommend.

Heartbreaking, Gorgeous set, Understated

See it if you enjoy stories of non traditional families & love Harvey. He's especially wonderful & subtle here. The rest of the cast is also stellar.

Don't see it if you're bothered by homosexual themes and you're expecting a tidy happy ending. I saw it early in previews - I expect it to tighten up a bit.

Funny, Absorbing, Clever, Delightful, Great acting

See it if You want to see Harvey Fierstein live, being awesome. A solid story with a real heart and awesome set.

Don't see it if You need things to move quickly. It's a gentle trek down the stream and you have to enjoy the view.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if Great acting and writing. Very emotional and intense. Harvey is fantastic.

Don't see it if You don't like plays about gay history and changing times.

Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Resonant, Entertaining

See it if you want to see Harvey Fierstein on stage. Also, see it as a case study about how, sadly, someone else must show us the worth of our life.

Don't see it if you're looking for "The Bird Cage" or "The Normal Heart."

Funny, Great acting, Intelligent

See it if Gabriel Ebert and Harvey Fierstein give a fabulous performance. Their relationship, pain, and joy can be seen plainly.

Don't see it if Could get too talky

Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Romantic, Slow

See it if you've any interest in the history of gay life in America, or just want to see two people change together in love over time.

Don't see it if a mostly solemn (and sweet) play that leapfrogs through time and doesn't rely on happy endings isn't your cuppa tea.

Also Although Fierstein's monologues were the most powerful, I found the de... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Delightful, Great acting, Indulgent, Entertaining

See it if if you want to see Harvey Fierstein command a room by raising an eyebrow. interesting look at LGBTQ history in context of relationship -

Don't see it if you are not willing to watch a master at his craft talking about gay history. The play gets a little confusing as it switched scenes

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Profound, Relevant

See it if I enjoyed this show, and I liked its message - that gay peoples' lives were often tragic on times past, but are not so now. Positive.

Don't see it if Harvey Fierstein's voice can be grating. It took awhile to make its point.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if You want to see Harvey Fierstein perform in an intimate setting, up close, in a play about relationships that surprise... Wonderful show.

Don't see it if You don't care to experience other people's relationships that are different from your own.

Great acting, Disappointing, Fluffy

See it if you want to see two great performances

Don't see it if you want a play with great depth. This one really just name checked gay hardships in an attempt to manipulate a reaction from the audience

Great acting, Intelligent, Resonant, Indulgent, Cliched

See it if Want to see great actors explore the history of gay men in NYC for the past 30 - 40 years.

Don't see it if You want fresh ideas, thoughts, concepts. . .

Also See it, also - if you are touched by a love story about family.

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Resonant, Great writing

See it if you're a member of the LGBTQ community and want to understand more about your generation and the generation that came before.

Don't see it if you don't care about LGBTQ history or if you can't stand plays with lots of exposition. Allow yourself to be open to another perspective.

Clever, Great writing, Slow, Entertaining

See it if you like to hear gay history and its progress through the years on a very didactic script

Don't see it if you prefer a fluff, entertaining play on the gay experience

Ambitious, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Historical

See it if you are interested in delving into the gay rights movement through an interesting and well written play.

Don't see it if you are not a fan of Harvey Fierstein. He is onstage the entire show.

Also I really enjoyed this piece. I thought it was not only incredibly inte... Read more Read less

Relevant, Didactic

See it if you are interested in the gay rights history and to see excellent performances from Gabriel Ebert and Harvey.

Don't see it if you would rather get the message by seeing the characters evolve and interact rather than being preached at.

Disappointing, Cliched, Dated

See it if you love anything Harvey is in.....this one is a school lesson about the history of "gay."

Don't see it if You want original, and if you like a leading man who doesn't croak like a frog, making hearing his lines tough!

Great acting, Intelligent

See it if You want to see a play that follows the progression of LGBT issues and how they have evolved over the last 50 years

Don't see it if you are not interested in seeing Harvey Fierstein or in stories about LGBT characters.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Romantic, Great writing

See it if you appreciate Harvey F for the icon he is, are comfortable with gay love stories and are comfortable reliving the AIDS epidemic

Don't see it if you don't like Harvey Fierstein or gay love stories

Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Historical, Great staging

See it if You're a fan of Harvey Fierstein and the AIDS crisis was relevant to your life.

Don't see it if You want a fresh perspective on important themes of love and mid-to-late 20th century gay history

Clever, Entertaining, Strong writing, Shaky acting

See it if you can see smart writing behind performances that don't service the play. It's a better play than is on the stage.

Don't see it if you go nuts when actors play the comedy and entertain the audience, rather than get the pain behind the funny lines.

Also It's a really strong play. I just found Harvey Fierstein's unrelenting... Read more Read less

Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Great writing

See it if You want to be challenged , entertained , and educated at the same time by the impeccable Harvey Fierstein

Don't see it if You want to avoid thinking about LGBT issues

Cast & Creatives (11)