If you want to see a confessional play presented as actual theatre rather than a therapy session masquerading as theatre, then Steven Fale’s Confessions of a Mormon Boy —currently onstage at Alexander Upstairs— is the entertainment choice for you.
When hearing that there's an Off-Broadway play about a Mormon Boy enticing Cape Town audiences, most theatre-lovers will immediately think of the musical Book of Mormon. Although Confessions of a Mormon Boy is not a musical and by no means comparable, there's one song from that musical, ‘Turn It Off’, that perhaps sets the scene:
‘When you start to get confused
Because of thoughts in your head
Don't feel those feelings
Hold them in instead
Turn it off, like a light switch
Just go click
It's a cool little Mormon trick
We do it all the time
When you're feeling certain feels
That just don't feel right
Treat those pesky feelings like a reading light
And turn 'em off’
It's this Mormon-informed façade that Elder Fales breaks through in his funny, autobiographical one-man play with pathos, or as he refers to it, a 'reclamation saga about what it means to finally come home'.
Fales captivates both with his narrative and his performance, presenting Confessions of a Mormon Boy as a thought-provoking exploration of the themes of conservatism, conformism, loneliness, survival, and acceptance from the perspective of a gay man trying to fit the mould of his belief-system while it eats away at his inner glee.
Fales takes to the stage with ease, charming his audience into his circle of trust. Throughout the play, the fourth wall is non-existent for all the right reasons, as he stands in conversation with his audience without forcing a connection; allowing it to naturally develop with every personal reveal and exploration of his life choices.
Baring pieces of his heart (as son, father, confused husband and liberated non-conformist), he shares personal truths of his path to inner peace without being preachy. He vibrantly turns his truths into satire with witty one-liners, a killer smile, and natural charisma. Even at 90 minutes run time —a bit longer than the standard Alexander Upstairs show— the play does not feel like a self-gratifying exercise, nor does Fales fall into the trap of overacted self-loathing as a mask behind which to hide the fears and emotions that inform it all.
When reflecting on his life, Fales may refer to himself as an oxy-Mormon, but his play is anything but a paradox: It's a revelation. In the end, Fales leaves his audience with an understanding that whether Mormon Boy or Rent Boy, faith and love is something that neither pastor, priest, pimp, nor elder can take away from you, as the acceptance comes from within... so, turn it on!
You can see the impressive Confessions of a Mormon Boy at Alexander Upstairs until 20 July 2019. Tickets are available online at shows.alexanderbarct.co.za.
Please note that this production is not appropriate for children. There's no swearing or nudity, but adult themes such as drugs and prostitution are explored.