BWW Reviews: Steven Fales Powerfully Bares All in PRODIGAL DAD
Houston has been a great city for Steven Fales to perform in. As he is gearing up to take his Mormon Boy Trilogy Off-Broadway, we are lucky enough to get to be part of his out-of-town try-out for his third installment, PRODIGAL DAD. Like CONFESSIONS OF A MORMON BOY and it's prequel MISSIONARY POSITION, PRODIGAL DAD is a solo show in which Steven Fales bares himself and his soul before an audience to talk about his life experiences, empowering us with his charming Mormon smile and his inexhaustible hope and love.
Having seen and thoroughly enjoyed the first two parts of the Mormon Boy Trilogy, I was instantly struck by how mature PRODIGAL DAD is. This is not to say that the other two plays are not mature, but PRODIGAL DAD treads through heavier material, and we get to see a new side of Steven Fales that we have not seen in the other two pieces. Discussing his relationship with his children, we get to know and experience Steven Fales the father. This is Steven Fales at his most vulnerable. He peels back the layers to let us see him bitter, angry, and eventually defeated.
For this installment, Steven Fales enters the stage and picks us a copy of a manuscript. He tells us that he has been working on his memoirs. He flashes us the title, Oxy-Mormon Memoirs, and we are off. In this play, we get to know his ex-wife Emily, his son, his daughter, his ex-mother-in-law, the famed Mormon writer Carol Lynn Pearson, his father, and his grandfather. Over the course of the two acts, he shows us how one small incident, a mild and altogether harmless mistake more than anything else, was spun into alleged physical and emotional abuse of his children. Here, we see Steven Fales afraid of losing his children, afraid of going to jail, and devastated that he has been made into a "padre non grata."
Through the course of PRODIGAL DAD, we see the devastating effects of Steven Fales' fears. We experience his relapse. Later in the play he muses, "I'm allergic to alcohol. I break out in drugs." However, as an audience, we see how redemptive his love of his children and his love of the family unit, even as non-traditional as his may be, is the force that saved him. It is this driving force that impacts the audience with precision, keeping us attending to his performance. It is this force that gives him hope, and uplifts us with his hope. It is this force that further showcases how skilled with words and performance Steven Fales truly is, making PRODIGAL DAD an incredibly moving and powerfully fascinating conclusion to his Mormon Boy Trilogy, especially in the play's gripping finale when he comes face to face with his dead ex-father-in-law, Gerald. The conversation Steven Fales shares with Gerald is sheer theatrical brilliance at its most poignant and effective.
The emotional weight and gravity of the production is well balanced with Steven Fales' rib-tickling and guffaw inducing sense of humor. Throughout the entirety of the production, he manages to make the audience laugh. Even when PRODIGAL DAD enters its most emotionally arresting moments, Steven Fales masterfully and purposefully peppers in an aside or two to lighten the mood. For example, he delivers snappy one-liners like "No one wants to get stuck out there by the prison. We've had family there!" and "Carol Lynn would want me to add that her only vice is her yearly subscription to The Enquirer and psychics."
The complete trilogy is an eye-opening and intriguing examination of one life affected by coming to terms with homosexuality, the power of religion and spirituality, the beauty of family no matter what form it takes, and the gifts that are love and hope. Across the three plays, Steven Fales exposes everything to the audience, picking his bones clean before our eyes. Whether you've seen the other two or not, when you experience PRODIGAL DAD you'll feel that you have experienced Steven Fales' life with him. You'll be moved by his lows, and you'll cheer his victories.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission.
PRODIGAL DAD, presented by Theater LaB Houston, runs for only two more performances at Obsidian Art Space, 3522 White Oak Drive, Houston, 77007 Saturday, April 12, 2014. Performances are Saturday at 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. For tickets and more information, please visit http://www.theaterlabhouston.com or call (713) 868-7516.