In South Africa, we know all about growing up religious and gay. We know how much homophobia comes from the church and many of us have stories of religion deceiving us to believe we were “curable”. How many gay men like me married a woman hoping against hope we would become “normal”? How many children have been born out of these relationships and how much pain and suffering did we all go through to correct these mistaken views when we realised gay is not a disease but a part of being human?
Confessions of a Mormon Boy could just as well have been Confessions of an NG Kerk Boy. The stories are so similar and the themes so universal that we all can identify with it in one way or the other. But let it be known that Steven Fales electrified the intimate Alexander Bar Theatre with his show, relating his autobiographical story filled with laughter and tears. It was first performed thirteen years ago Off-Broadway and now, having toured extensively worldwide is about to return to its city of origin, New York.
It is rare to see a show that has been performed so many times and in which the actor has become so comfortable, allowing him at times to go off script and speak directly to the audience. Because of this, he delivers a knock-out performance perfectly suited to the intimacy of the Alexander Theatre. His energy is paced perfectly in order to unfold the story. While the staging tended to become a little repetitive, not making full use of the space available, it did not detract from the strong story and the way it unfolded. Using recordings of himself singing as a child created a haunting aspect, especially when used to good effect at the end of the story.
And what a story it is! From growing up Mormon, through marriage, children, conversion therapy and prostitution, it’s a roller coaster ride of emotions. There are some truly funny moments played with great comedy timing, especially in the first half of the story, that had me wiping tears of laughter from my eyes. The show was engaging and I felt we were sharing the experience with him in a way that reflected my own experience and emotions, as indeed the show was dedicated to gay dads. Confessions of a Mormon Boy is a triumph and it will be interesting to see how it is received when it returns to New York. And there were hints of parts two and three of the trilogy, which I would be very interested in seeing!
I am sure there are many people who will identify with Steven’s story and as it is well worth the ticket price, you should make an effort to see it. It is on until 20 July at the Alexander Bar Theatre in Strand Street, Cape Town.