By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Part of this is director Jack Hofsiss’ fault. He has abetted Fales’ Hallmark impulses by allowing him to present himself as a completely trustworthy narrator whose prime grievances are an unfeeling church, a cheapskate dad and a fleeting weakness for crystal meth. He also allows Fales’ performance, which began as a comedy routine, to remain stuck in its standup format. Fales adds no dimension to his autobiography, oversimplifying it by telling us how silly and unforgiving Mormonism is without explaining what he really misses about it. (He mentions some dream he once had about riding horses on the sage with his pioneer ancestors, but that hardly satisfies our curiosity about Mormonism’s ontological allure.) It’s possible to imagine another director taking the same material and breaking it up into less cuddly (or, at least, less predictable) conclusions about Fales (David Schweizer, who has directed such idiosyncratic soloists as John Fleck and Sandra Tsing Loh, comes to mind).
Religion, like politics, is a tricky subject to translate into comedy. There have always been plenty of sentimental Jewish or Italian Catholic plays and solo performances, but these play more to ethnic archetypes than spiritual beliefs. Mormonism is especially difficult to present, since it’s a relatively modern religion with roots in the Anglo-Irish push West, and, because of this, many nonbelievers frankly regard it as a cult. (Fales tellingly says of his marriage, “We were the Tom and Nicole of Mormonism.”)
Tony Kushner grappled with “the saints,” somewhat successfully, via the Mormon characters in his Angels in America plays. Perhaps Kushner felt that, as an Eastern Jew, he needed to make sure he wasn’t belittling an easy religious target, while Fales, a Western Mormon, might not want to seem overly zealous about his affection for Zion. Ultimately, Fales probably has too much material for one performance and, not surprisingly, is said to be working on a new show. If nothing else, this should demonstrate that there are second acts in Mormonism.
CONFESSIONS OF A MORMON BOY | Written and performed by STEVEN FALES | COAST PLAYHOUSE, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., W. Hlywd. | Thru Feb. 18 | (800) 595-4849