Friday, April 04, 2014

All That Glitters - "Our Lady" by James Fluhr At New Rep in Watrertown

As part of its inaugural Next Rep Black Box Festival, New Rep Theatre presents James Fluhr's stunning one man show, "Our Lady."  I saw an earlier and more truncated version of this show when it was presented at the New York Fringe Festival.  The current production has been expanded to 90 minute in length.

Describing "Our Lady" is not easy.  It is part play, part monologue, part performance art, part multi-media show, part memorial to lost suicide victims and part drag show.  It is 100% heart-felt and gripping.  For an hour and a half, Watertown becomes Fire Island!  Playwright and performer James Fluhr tells his story - the story of growing up gay and facing rejection and bullying, losing a lover to suicide and coming to grips with the realities of living life as a gay man.  During the show, he engages the audience members in a number of ways, inviting us into his story and into his life.

In the early part of the show, Mr. Fluhr channels his over-the- top protective mother talking histrionically about what it was like trying to shelter her son from the worst of the hatred and bigotry he felt from their conservative community for his being an obvious "faggot."  Fluhr's caricature of his mother is both hilarious and poignant.  Using video projection and audio of newscasts, the focus shifts to remembering the many young men who have committed suicide because of bullying they received for being gay.

Central themes of the play include overcoming multiple layers of fear, standing up to homophobic bullying and coming to grips with the death of his lover, Aspen.  The title of play derives from a mythical creature Fluhr's mother created as a force to protect and redeem him: "Our Lady."  As he invokes her presence, he transforms himself into "Our Lady," indicating that the source of his strength and redemption has lain within him all this time.  He begins the transformation at his mother's battered and iconic make-up box he first used to create a fantasy world for himself as a little boy.  The metamorphosis finishes up off-stage as the litany of teen suicides is projected onto the walls of the Black Box theater.  When Fluhr re-emerges and launches into his drag routine to pulsating music, we see two different personas.  The first is a black clad dancer and lip-syncer who oozes rage from every pore.  As the black chrysalis is shed, it is replaced with a glittery snow white faux wedding gown, evocative of the snow that protected the young James Fluhr when he was a small lad.  "Our Lady" has emerged to offer hope and redemption.  The music is loud, and so are the emotions, but how could this story be told sotto voce?

This show is not for the squeamish or for the faint of heart.  Yet, at the end of the evening, only the most cold-hearted audience member could fail to fall in love with James Fluhr the fearless artist and James Fluhr the courageous human being.  Last night's audience certainly responded warmly and enthusiastically to the man and his story.

Other members of the creative team include Scenic Co-Designer Courtney Nelson, Lighting Designer Dan Alaimo, Costume Designer Ameera Ali, Costume Construction by Chelsea Keri, Sound Designer Yi-Chun "Iggy" Hung and Projection Designer Matthew Haber.

"Fresh off huge success in the New York Fringe Festival, this dynamic, gutsy one-person performance piece exposes James Fluhr’s stunning surprises through his own coming out as a gay man. The piece was created in response to toxic homophobia responsible for many gay suicides."

The show will run in repertory through April 27.

New Rep Theatre Website

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