BWW Reviews: MISSIONARY POSITION is Hilarious, Poignant, and Powerful
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by David Clarke
Theater LaB Houston, continually bringing the best of contemporary theater in the Off-Broadway genre to Houston, is presenting Steven Fales' critically acclaimed and controversial one-man show MISSIONARY POISTION. The hilarious and poignant show is the second installment in The Mormon Boy Trilogy.
MISSIONARY POISTION serves as a prequel of sorts to his wildly popular CONFESSIONS OF A MORMON BOY. Exploring his youth in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and his mission to Portugal, chronologically Steven Fales uses MISSIONARY POISTION to explore life before his marriage, excommunication, and experiences in the sex industry. In MISSIONARY POSITION, he chronicles his experiences training for his mission, his mission in Portugal, and his Endowment Ceremony in a Mormon Temple. However, as a follow up show, MISSIONARY POSITION comes across as more mature than CONFESSIONS, showcasing Steven Fales' struggles with his personal and religious identities. Certainly CONFESSIONS is something that a majority of audiences can easily relate to; yet, MISSIONARY POSITION seems universally accessible.
MISSIONARY POSITION begins with Steven Fales dragging a large trunk onto the stage. In this trunk are the relics of his Mormon adolescence. He instantly engages the audience with his magnanimous, charming wit and winning smile, calling his show an "Oxy-Mormon experience." Most impressively, sitting in a packed house, each member of the audience feels that Steven Fales is speaking only to them. He makes eye contact with each member of the audience multiple times throughout the show, bringing theatre to its basest of elements: one speaker and one listener. Through this technique, each individual audience member becomes a part of his deeply personal story, taking it in as if they are spending 90 minutes alone with him.
His comedic timing and sense of humor is constantly on display in the production. Steven Fales effortlessly drops one-liners and other hilarious gems. He says that "Mormons are wannabe Jews" when discussing Mormons interested in theatre and involved in theatrical business. He also reminds the audience that "Mormons were here before L. Ron Hubbard. We are the original Scientology." Easily earning sincere and hearty laughs, chuckles, and guffaws it becomes abundantly clear that Steven Fales is immaculately capable of providing the audience with an unforgettable theatrical experience.
As the show progresses and he relates just how he grew into manhood, Steven Fales becomes delightfully poignant. These experiences are definitely his own, but there is so much that the audience can relate to. Everyone has experienced awkward moments of self realization, had unattainable crushes, and wrestled with what spirituality means for them. Then, in the show's emotionally rich and surreally heartrending climatic moment, the audience witnesses Steven Fales as playwright talking to 19 year old Steven Fales at his Endowment Ceremony. Have we not all wished we could tell ourselves something to avoid years of distress and hurt? Yet, if we could, would our younger selves even listen? Also, would we be the people we are today if we had? Steven Fales expertly answers these questions in that moment, opening the audience's hearts and minds and ultimately empowering them to claim their own lives, stories, and spirituality.
MISSIONARY POSITION is a remarkable show that explores spiritual fulfillment, spiritual journeys, and coming of age and into adulthood. It is remarkably touching and thought provoking. It is powerful and majestic. Best of all, it is uproariously entertaining. Steven Fales is easily among the best, if not the best, solo performers in the business. His magnetism, charisma, talent, and charm are inescapable and will guarantee that audiences from all walks of life will be able to enjoy his ability to fearlessly tell us his story. MISSIONARY POSITION is simply a show you should not miss.
Theatre LaB Houston is presenting the Regional Premiere of MISSIONARY POSITION, written and performed by Steven Fales, through October 21, 2012. For more information and tickets, please visit http://theaterlabhouston.com/ or call (713) 868 – 7516. You can also reach Steven Fales on Twitter @mormonboy and at http://facebook.com/fales.steven.
Photos courtesy of Steven Fales and Theater LaB Houston.