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Theater Review (LA): ‘First Elders’ and ‘I Want to Bury My Testimony’ at the Hollywood Fringe

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First Elders
Produced by APT 3F
Theatre Asylum


Left to right: Aaron Merken, Jim Pentecost, Larry Rubenstein, Eric Toro, Henry Alberto, Hank Henderson and Brad Kahn.

First Elders tells the story of Charlie, a young gay man who wants to recover from a painful breakup. Armed with a “Witchcraft for Dummies” book, Charlie goes to the most sacred gay place he knows — the theater — to perform a healing ritual. He summons the spirits of six archetypal gay men in the hope that their wisdom and guidance will help him through his heartache. For the next hour, they take Charlie — and the audience — through a potted history of gay culture. The early stigma, the bashing, the Stonewall riots, and the AIDS crisis are all examined in cocktail conversation.

Some of the passages in the piece, written by David LeBarron, are rather effective, but too often it degenerates into bitchy bar talk along the lines of “Oh, get her!” LeBarron and director Andrew Henkes also fuss unnecessarily with the bringing of chairs and taking drink orders to the point where it feels like the actors — and the audience — are standing around waiting for something to get started.

And as angst-ridden as Charlie is, we never really understand what specifically is troubling him, aside from bristling when queens of the past want to pinch his ass. And we know from the beginning that he’s already in touch with gay history, so the lessons of the elders seem unnecessary. The acting is also quite mannered, exacerbated by the clichéd lines the performers are forced to deliver. It’s a pretty pointless exercise.

First Elders plays June 23 and 28 at Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Boulevard. Consult the Fringe schedule for showtimes and tickets.

I Want to Bury My Testimony
Written and Performed by Scott Hislop
Lounge Theatre

testimonyNot to be written off as yet another gay coming of age story, I Want to Bury My Testimony is an amusing confessional written and performed by multi-hyphenate entertainer Scott Hislop. Raised Mormon in Salt Lake City and Reno, he describes his early life as a “pretty boy” who feared other males while finding comfort in the company of girls until he could finally, absolutely come out…twice.

Constantly in motion, Hislop has a closet onstage from which he draws a number of costume changes and props. He breaks into song and dance, and his cheerful outlook on life is infectious, even when he’s describing being bullied or disappointing his mother when he admitted the truth about his sexuality. He takes good-natured swipes at the Mormon church — of course — and acknowledges the rapidity with which gay rights have advanced over the past couple of years. He even performs a song in which he insists the entire audience is gay (“If you’ve ever been jolly…you’re gay!”).

Directed with verve by Kelleia Sheerin, I Want to Bury My Testimony plays June 22, 24 and 28 at the Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Boulevard. Consult the Fringe schedule for showtimes and tickets.


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About Kurt Gardner

Writer, critic and marketing expert whose passion for odd culture knows no bounds.