He’s a she and she’s a he, in the comedy at the Orpheum

Argumentatively one of the greatest actors of his generation, Dustin Hoffman has played an enormously diverse list of characters: a naive graduate seduced by an older woman, a street hustler who befriends a gigolo, a man who claims to be the only white survivor of Custer’s last stand, a special needs person who is extremely OCD and a Focker left over from the hippie days. These are some of the varied faces of Dustin Hoffman. But one might say that in “Tootsie” Hoffman really steps up to an acting challenge. Even though cross dressing, or dressing in drag, is nothing new in comedy, it is amazing how it still makes an audience laugh.

“Tootsie” was released in 1982 and is as funny and touching today as it was over 30 years ago. Hoffman plays an actor, Michael Dorsey, whose reputation for being trouble on the set causes him to be unemployable. Michael disguises himself as a woman and auditions for a role on a soap. He is so convincing to the audience and to himself that he becomes an inspiration to the viewers of the soap. To further complicate his dilemma, he falls in love with a female co-star played by Academy Award winner Jessica Lange (Best Supporting Actress). How Dorsey gets out of this mess is what makes the movie very funny and enchanting.

Perhaps my favorite character is the co-star’s father, Les, played by veteran actor Charles Durning. Les is caught in Dorsey’s web (he uses the name Dorothy Michaels when in drag) and falls madly in love with her. Through all of these shenanigans Michael learns a great deal about himself and exits the show a better man. Many other equally talented actors fill out the cast: Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman, Bill Murray, Sydney Pollack and Geena Davis.

Even though you know it is Dustin Hoffman you will forget when he dons the dress and transforms into Dorothy.

See for yourself this weekend at the Orpheum. Show times are 7 p.m. on Friday, 2 and 7 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Visit the theater for tours and check out all of the Iowa related memorabilia. Call the Orpheum Theater Center movie hotline at 641-844-5907 or visit www.orpheumcenter.com

Tom LaVille is a retired Marshalltown drama and literature teacher. LaVille’s Critic’s Corner column appears Friday in the Times-Republican.