Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Confessions of a Mormon
Also see Richard's review of Carved in Stone
There is an old axiom that says "confession is good for the soul," and Steven Fales most certainly bares his soul in his 90 minute intermissionless tale currently at the New Conservatory Theatre Center. The audience witnesses sarcastic humor, songs and a soulful monologue.
Upon entering the small theatre we are treated to the sound of recordings from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which is suppose to get us into the mood. Unfortunately, there is so much bantering going on with the crowd, the music has little effect. Steven Fales enters the stage dressed in a black Mormon suit, starched white shirt and plain tie. He has a wide smile on his face as he faces the audience. He tells the group his name and that he is a Mormon and that is why he smiles like that. He adds that he is a gay Mormon which makes him "an oxy-Mormon." We then listen to a recording of a 5 year old boy singing a silly song that seems to go on forever. Steven informs us that it is a recording of him singing when he was five. That seemed just a little too much of an ego trip for me.
Steven Fales then goes into his tormented life of coming out, which began in early boyhood when he watched the "Donny and Marie" television show and wanted to marry Donny and be Marie. The actor continues talking about "gender-disorientation" during his high school years, how he tried to suppress any kind of gay feelings, how he became a Mormon missionary in Portugal, how he went to Latter-day Saints type therapies to cure himself of these "unnatural desires." Steven talks about his marriage to a Mormon woman (whose father was also gay and had died of AIDS) and how they produced two wonderful children. He tells of trying a perilous form of "reparative therapy" in which he explored his own sexuality, facing both divorce and excommunication. He ends up talking about entering the New York gay disco scene with Ecstasy and many one night stands.
Confessions of a Mormon Boy still needs shaping and editing before it goes to Off-Broadway. Steven is an accomplished actor and singer and he looks like the all-American boy next door. He has a lovely voice when singing a Portuguese prayer and one of his own country ballads about Utah. He is engaging in his candor and a lot of confessions are intriguing. However, the 90 minute piece needs to be developed more and some seems a little too cute for words. The near ending also needs a lot of work, especially the disco scenes where he picks up someone every night - this goes on much too long and really is unnecessary what with his shirt off, a glass ballroom ball rotating and loud disco music. It suddenly ends and we get a little sermon about how proud it is to be you. Finally the little 5 year voice comes back over the speaker, the lights dim and go out and Steven is gone.
Confessions of a Mormon Boy plays through September 1 at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness, San Francisco. Tickets can be obtained at 415-861-8972 or on line at www.nctcsf.org. Also coming to center this week is Jim Porvenzano, sports drama, PINS. It is currently in previews and it opens on August 24.