Sunday, September 09, 2007

STAGE: Confessions of a Mormon Boy

This afternoon we were treated to a one-man autobiographical show called Confessions of a Mormon Boy. It's the poignant story of a boy on track to be the perfect Mormon -- missionary leader, BYU grad, married with two kids -- except for the nagging problem that he is gay. Steven Fales, the writer/actor/protagonist, tells his story engagingly, with a healthy blend of humor and pathos, of his struggle to be straight -- trying all sorts of counseling and reparative therapy -- to his eventual excommunication from his church, divorce from his wife, and exile from the only life he knew. The latter phase of his life leads to New York City and a dark path of being an escort, doing drugs, and living a life of decadence, before bottoming out, and ultimately, a revelation of self-acceptance. Given this history, Fales could be forgiven for falling into polemics or bitterness, but he rises above those temptations, keeping the story focused on his personal experience and development, and keeping his delivery genuine and heartfelt. He has obviously done a lot of soul-searching, and the play offers some great insights and profound quotes. (One that sticks in mind: after being excommunicated by a horrible tribunal, Fales hears the voice of God in his head saying "I know who you are, and I am bigger than all of this.") The minimal staging -- a bench and a few costume changes -- is used to good effect, and the primary narrative style of talking to the audience is broken up by well-enacted vignettes. While gay people who have suffered an unhealthy religious upbringing will recognize a lot in Fales' story, I don't think you need to be Mormon or gay to appreciate the self-examined humanity in his tale. (The play is running at the Elephant Lab Theatre through September 30.)

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