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THEATER | REVIEW

Laughs and honesty from a confessional

February 16, 2007|David C. Nichols | Special to The Times

The pre-show voice-over for "Confessions of a Mormon Boy" at the Coast Playhouse slyly portends what's to come. After the usual electronic devices request, we hear warnings against "smoking, drinking, swearing, fornicating, light-mindedness, loud laughter, evil-speaking of the Lord's anointed, or any other unholy and impure practice -- except by the actor."

Well, the truth shall make you free. Wrenchingly honest, hilariously jubilant and utterly clear-eyed, Steven Fales' autobiographical testimony of his journey from devout Mormon to Manhattan escort is an exceptional achievement to rank beside the best of the solo genre.

We first see Fales, whose buffed physique, glossy voice and gimlet gaze are ready for Shakespeare and Sondheim, listening to his childhood self pipe away about flowers. "I just made up songs like this," Fales says. "Mormons record everything." He croons along with the ditty and notes, "Now with a song like that, could there be any question in anyone's mind that I was gay?"

Fales never reviles himself or the religion he loved, nor does he let either off the hook. His narrative -- college awakenings, marriage and fatherhood, excommunication, Broadway ambitions, downward spiral -- is richly absorbing in its immediacy. The motifs are shrewdly developed, and the climactic revelation is a hair-raising coup.

Director Jack Hofsiss frames this terrific writer-performer with cagey expertise. His stripped-back staging gives story and teller apt proximity, capably assisted by Steven Cohen's lighting and Joe Killian's sound.

You'd have to go back to Leslie Jordan and Jeff Key, or Geraldine Hughes and Julia Sweeney, to find such deeply personal material attaining so wide a reach. That accessibility distinguishes "Confessions," and it's a memorable soul-baring session.

*

`Confessions of a Mormon Boy'

Where: Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 and 7 p.m. Sundays

Ends: March 25

Price: $35 to $40

Contact: (800) 595-4849 or www.tix.com

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