New York | 1h 40m | Already closed

Gently Down the Stream

From 29 critic and 217 member reviews
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. More…

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.

Gay City News

"Both personal and universal, intimate and epic, the play, directed by Sean Mathias, is nothing short of astonishing...Not that the endeavor comes off as a history lesson. It’s actually a poignant love story...What makes this nostalgic yet unsentimental drama truly sublime is that these stories are told by the masterful Fierstein. Not only are we learning these stories vital to queer history, beautifully told, but we are witnessing a slice of history itself." 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

Edge New York

"Beau's beautifully written and performed monologues represent the heart of the play and the soul of Beau...Sherman writes such poetic and penetrating words and Fierstein breathes them into vivid images, while the brilliant director Sean Mathias gives it all the color and light and space needed to become art...The casting works magic because the author of the groundbreaking 'Torch Song Trilogy' brings his own history to the piece." 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

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


“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

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

Exeunt Magazine

"Beau is embodied in a sensitive and nuanced performance by Harvey Fierstein...This is a character crafted with attention to the smallest detail, drawn with a deft hand and a personal touch...It is a testament to the strength of the writing and the rich performances that the relationship between these characters feels lived-in and true. Ebert and Fierstein have a natural chemistry...There is a great use of mirrored staging, highlighting the refractions of time and shifting power." 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


“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

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


“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


“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

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

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

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

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


"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

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


“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

NYC Theatre Addict

“'I wanted to like this play. But I did not like this play. It just never took off and then it became way too predictable and way too driven by monologues that just didn’t matter to me…The play started with the obligatory waking up with the hot, shirtless trick–and I thought, okay, I’ve seen this before...But then the play just didn’t move…I was able to predict every turn of the play. I have heard all of this many times before and with more aplomb.” 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

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

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

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Masterful, Intense

See it if You want to see the best....and anything Harvey. You want to be moved as well as entertained.

Don't see it if You don't believe in basic human rights and dignity for all.

Absorbing, Delightful, Funny, Great acting, Intelligent

See it if You love Harvey Fierstein.

Don't see it if You are a fool ;-)

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Resonant

See it if Interested in Gay relationships, both friends & lovers, and historic progress of gay men in America, before and after Stonewall.

Don't see it if Gay male relationships and the intimacy of friends and lovers is not compelling subject matter.

Also A beautiful, life-affirming play filled with heartbreak and hope. I cr... Read more Read less

Great acting, Great writing, Great staging, Riveting, Relevant

See it if love Harvey Fierstein and want to experience a funny yet moving play presenting the heartbreaks and triumphs of gay rights through the ages.

Don't see it if you don't want to see a fantastic drama that mourns/celebrates those gay men in LGBT who have gone before us. I wept during many scenes.

Absorbing, Riveting, Romantic, Masterful, Great acting

See it if you enjoy a moving piece of theater.

Don't see it if aren't comfortable with allowing people to be themselves - faults and all.

Also BRAVO to Martin Sherman for a BEAUTIFULLY written play. BRAVO to Harve... Read more Read less

Thought-provoking, Poignant, beautiful, important,

See it if you care about LGBT issues. A lot of Harvey at his finest

Don't see it if you do not care.

Absorbing, Resonant, Intelligent, Great writing

See it if Beautifully written and realized. Harvey Fierstein gives a deeply moving performance; every word he speaks rings true.

Don't see it if Weaker performances from supporting cast will affect your enjoyment or you are not interested in gay lifestyle

Intelligent, Slow, Thought-provoking, Refreshing, Ambitious

See it if you love Harvey Fierstein; you like plays involving gay men; you like plays that deal with past problems of the gay community

Don't see it if you don't like Harvey Fierstein - you must like him or you will not like the play; you need a play that zips right along

Great acting, Great writing, Masterful, Profound, Resonant

See it if you love stupendous acting and accomplished, poignant theater. Harvey Fierstein gives a tour de force performance.

Don't see it if you don't appreciate great acting or if you have no interest in LBGT history.

Great acting, Absorbing, Profound

See it if You are interested in the history of LGBT rights and how it progresses while enjoying great acting and on-stage chemistry.

Don't see it if You aren't progressive or open to LGBT rights.

Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Great acting, Delightful, Great writing

See it if Your interested in gay history or are a fan of Harvey Fierstein. We forget that he is more then just Edna Turnblad. Casting is excellent!

Don't see it if Your not a fan of Harvey or not interested in gay relationships/gay history.

Absorbing, Clever, Funny, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if want to see actors challenged to do their best work, new work that challenges the audience, or just see Harvey (Fierstein)

Don't see it if You're homophobic, cynical, or too critical.

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

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

Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant

See it if Harvey Fierstein. Truth.

Don't see it if Prudish and insensitive to the personal lives of others.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Great writing

See it if You like good solid writing. I cried. The set was great, too.

Don't see it if You are homophobic

Absorbing, Intelligent, Riveting, Entertaining

See it if you want to see a moving, well-acted play that deals with relationships and gay history; you're a fan of Harvey Fierstein.

Don't see it if you don't like Harvey Fierstein.

Absorbing, Profound, Thought-provoking, Must see

See it if you enjoy a moving and powerful piece of theater. Harvey Fierstein is also amazing.

Don't see it if You don't want to see a play with a gay theme.

Delightful, Great acting, Riveting, Entertaining, Great writing

See it if You don't want to miss Harvey Fierstein's "must see" performance. This is such an entertaining and relatable show for anyone.

Don't see it if You can't handle 100 minute plays without intermission. But the show's gay themes would not make anybody uncomfortable in this day and age.

Also I enjoyed the play much more than I thought I would.

Absorbing, Funny, Great acting, Relevant

See it if You want to see Harvey Fierstein give a great performance in a funny, well-written and entertaining play.

Don't see it if You're not interested in a play with a gay theme.

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Riveting, Relevant

See it if You're a Harvey fan, or enjoy a heartfelt, character driven play. Beautiful acting enclosed by an incredible set. Some great monologues too.

Don't see it if You aren't a fan of LGBT plots, or don't like Harvey Fierstein.

Clever, Great staging, Great writing, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if You are interested in gay relationships and history You liked Papa Woof, Daddy Hot and similar shows you like Fierstein

Don't see it if You dislike seeing things about gay relationships, you dislike shows with monologues of people reminiscing

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

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.

Thought-provoking, Relevant, Intelligent

See it if You enjoy good story telling.

Don't see it if I can't think of a reason

Also I feel lucky to have experienced this performance. This will stay with... Read more Read less

Enchanting, Great acting, Great writing, Romantic, Relevant

See it if you're a fan of Tennessee Williams as it's written in that style. It pays homage to a legacy of LGBT history which deserves to be remembered

Don't see it if you expect groundbreaking new work. Nothing too overly exciting happens- its simple plot & standard format doesn't push any new boundaries.

Absorbing, Funny, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if If you want to see an entertaining and thought provoking show about gay history in America. Harvey Fierstein is really great in this show.

Don't see it if If you're uncomfortable watching scenes of love and affection between 2 men.

Cast & Creatives (11)