Monday, March 30, 2015

"Say Cheese: My Life in Front of a Camera"

Say Cheese: My Life in Front of a Camera
Leslie Jordan

At only 4’11”, actor and playwright Leslie Jordan has no problem commanding on his own an entire stage and theatre.  From his opening, Southern-drawl line to his final bow, he is in charge and pulling every string possible to draw almost constant laughter from his adoring, mostly gay audience. 

In his latest one-person ‘memoir,’
Say Cheese, Mr. Jordan takes us through all the ‘sordid’ details of his various relationships, particularly his several live-in, ‘straight’ escorts whom he meets at Atlanta’s Swinging Richards, a male strip club catering to mostly gay men.  Illustrated by large photographs of these hunky, unclothed giants (he likes ‘em tall), the descriptions and dimensions we see and hear more about leave little to our imagination.  Each tale, in true Leslie Jordan style, takes many circuitous side-trail journeys to reach its end.  We hear of addictions, recoveries, sexual fantasies and frustrations as well as of trips together, hotel hilarities, and personal observations and wisdoms about scores of subjects and people.  The ways the stories are told are often funnier than the stories themselves.  Mr. Jordan is a true Southern Belle, employing every Deep-South expression, mannerism, and phrase possible.  Anyone from the South (I happen to be a fellow Tennessean) particularly can find special humor and private chuckles in remembering similar-in-our-backgrounds people and circumstances like that ones Mr. Jordan is throwing at us by the bushels – references that others in the audience probably totally miss.

While we as audience can barely catch our breaths from laughing, I felt at the end of the show like I needed to go wash my hands or take a shower.  Not only is this show over the top in terms of blue, XXX humor (which is actually OK with me), it is actually a pretty sad story, if true.  What we are hearing from this man that many of us have loved and celebrated for years in movies, TV, the stage, and comedy clubs is that his life has been right out of National Enquirer.  We hear in hilarious anecdotes about a life where love and even sexual fulfillment have been largely absent.  I often thought of Emett Kelley as the show progressed.  Here is this clown-like person (which is how he entered the show dressed) whose happiness seems largely painted on and not backed up with much believability once the jokes are removed from his story.  Even in the end when he does in two minutes say that he has finally found his soul-mate in the past year, we hear no details, see no picture, and leave somewhat unconvinced.   

What I left wondering is why he needed to tell us this entire narrative at all.  What is he or we gaining once the laughter has died down.  I did not walk away with any learning or insight about myself or about relationships (gay or straight).  I got to cackle a lot, but I frankly did not feel great about all that fun and frivolity after my final smile diminished.  I found myself a bit sad as I walked back to my car to head home.

I have absolutely loved other Leslie Jordan stage shows.  After this one, however, I am not convinced I would sign up for another one any time soon.

Rating: 2 E’s

1 comment:

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