Harvey Fierstein will portray the take-no-prisoners Jewish politician and feminist icon Bella Abzug in an Off Broadway play this fall.
“Bella Bella” will open in October as part of the Manhattan Theater Club’s 2019-20 season.
Dressing in women’s clothing is nothing new for Fierstein: In addition to writing and starring as a drag queen in his breakthrough production “Torch Song Trilogy,” he won a Tony Award in 2003 for playing Edna Turnblad in the musical “Hairspray.”
“Bella Bella” is set on primary election night in 1976, when Abzug lost her bid for a New York Senate seat to a more moderate Democrat, Daniel Patrick Moynihan. She is, according to the advance press material, “squirreled away” in a hotel bathroom “while a coterie of family and celebs await her entrance” once results come in.
Abzug, who served a few terms as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives before losing the Senate bid, described herself “as a tough and noisy woman, a prizefighter, a man hater, you name it. They call me battling Bella.” In addition to being a pioneer in the battle for women’s rights, she fought against the war in Vietnam and was an avid Zionist.
The three-term congresswoman studied at the Jewish Theological Seminary while attending Hunter College.
She also was well known for her colorful selection of hats, which one hopes Fierstein won’t eschew, even if he is locked in a bathroom.