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Theatre Review (LA): Fruit Fly by Leslie Jordan at the Celebration Theatre

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Fruit Fly is a hilarious one-man show by Leslie Jordan now playing at LA’s Celebration Theatre. Periodically we are treated to insights into the mind of this unequaled character actor and Fruit Fly is his latest. Jordan asks the often postulated but not answered (until now) question, “Do gay men become their mothers?” To answer this question he takes us on a journey through his childhood, from the first inklings that he was “special” to his coming out to his mother on a cruise, a cruise that turns out to be gay.

Leslie was a typical Southern boy, sheltered, sweet, but hounded by doubts thanks to his Baptist upbringing. The effects of this upbringing are best expressed by one of Jordan’s collaborators, Del Shores, in his plays Sordid Lives and Southern Baptist Sissies that featured Jordan in prominent roles. Leslie Jordan was a tiny 4’11” boy who never grew and had to learn to cope with his sissified nature. As a young boy and later as a teen he experimented with drag, which culminated in his telling his mother that he didn’t want to go to college but wanted to do drag. His mother didn’t know what that was.

Jordan became famous through his many television appearances, especially as the sexually ambiguous Beverly Leslie on the hit series Will and Grace which garnered him an Emmy Award. He is naturally funny, and like a lot of funny people, this ability is stoked by a certain amount of pain. But pain is not the subject of Fruit Fly except tangentially when he brings up his father’s death.

After his mother remarried and had an unhappy second marriage that ended in divorce, Jordan reached out once again to her and invited her on a cruise to Alaska. He failed to mention that it was a gay cruise and some of the activities involved “leather night,” “biggest cock” night, etc. When he confronted his mother about the cruise her only response was that she refused to go ice fishing.

As things turned out his mother became the den mother for all the guys on the cruise and she loved it. When Leslie asked her if she considered herself a “fag hag” she said, “No, I’m a fruit fly,” and thus the title of this rowdy history and confessional.

Leslie Jordan may be the only performer who can bring up some gay subjects such as blowjobs or sodomy and get laughs because he presents these ideas as an innocent and with great charm. I think his key to success has been his ability to be true to himself, both as a performer and as a human being. He knows what he looks and acts like so he has perfected a kind of gay character that is sweet, truthful, and insightful. The same can be said about his humanity. Rather than deny his being, he has embraced it and unapologetically shares it all with us.

Fruit Fly will play at the Celebration Theatre through February 18th.

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