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Confessions of a Mormon Boy: A Complex, Compelling One-Man Show at Theater LaB Houston

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The setup:

The struggle of a devout Mormon youth to overcome homosexual drives, his entry into the fleshpots of Manhattan and the lure of drugs, and the ultimate resolution of his personal odyssey is recounted in a complex and compelling one-man performance by Steven Fales.

The execution:

The one-week-only show enters Houston for its premiere performance here, trailing clouds of glory, with multiple awards and nominations. Playwright and performer Steven Fales has been honing this work both across the country and internationally for a decade, resulting in a polished, amusing and powerful evening of theater.

The intimate space of Theater LaB is perfect for this intimate comedic drama, and the lighting that underlines and accentuates shifting moods or scenes is so effective it is almost another character onstage. But there are many characters onstage here, though just one performer, as Fales portrays his interactions with church elders and others in a prolonged and intense attempt to overcome his attraction to men, including missionary work in Portugal, several tries at reparative therapy, as well as marrying and fathering two children.

Homosexuality is anathema to the Mormon Church, and Fales is excommunicated, gets divorced and moves to Manhattan, where financial needs lead him into working as a gay male escort. Drugs loom large, and the search for spiritual peace is shunted aside but not forgotten, as the world of paid sex engulfs him. Fales finally finds his way out of this maze and now lives in Salt Lake City with his two children.

The performance has so much going for it that it's hard to know where to begin. The narrative is gripping, vivid and well-written. The entire saga resonates with the ring of truth, as we relive with Fales his struggle to reconcile opposing forces. Fales is a talented actor, with an expressive face and body language. He is tall, handsome, physically fit and with considerable charm, and has an interesting and attractive voice, as there are occasional snatches of songs. All these combine to enhance the performance, but it is the truth-telling that provides the punch and holds the audience in thrall. And, since Fales is a gifted writer as well as performer, there is a denouement at the end which permits a dramatic arc to the structure.

This work is Part I of a trilogy, with the second part being Missionary Position, and part III Prodigal Dad. The entire trilogy is to be performed this spring in Los Angeles. Fales has written and performed a number of other works, and seems to be a one-man industry. In development are a memoir, a documentary and an album, and -- may the Saints preserve us -- The Mormon Boy Cooking Show.

The verdict:

A talented performer recounts with charm and power a gripping narrative about his attempts to reconcile his personal needs with the teachings of the Mormon Church, and carries us along with him for an emotional, amusing and roller-coaster theatrical ride.

Confessions of a Mormon Boy continues through February 12 at Theatre LaB Houston, 1706 Alamo. For information or ticketing, please call 713-868-7516 or visit www.theatrelabhouston.com.

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