Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Guy Windsor's official review of Confusion of My Illusion for "The Alternative with Terry LeGrand"

Show – Confusion of My Illusion
Starring – Kelly Mantle
Reviewed by – Guy Windsor
Directed by – Jon Imparato
Venue – LA Gay and Lesbian Center, Hollywood, CA

I recently had the pleasure of attending opening night of “Confusion of My Illusion” starring Kelly Mantle. Mantle is the gender-bending nephew of baseball legend and American Icon, Mickey Mantle.

The show is based on Kelly’s struggle to define himself and herself in this world and in Hollywood and opens with Kelly portraying the biblical character “Eve.” Sitting atop a golden staircase, surrounded by clouds and dressed in white, Kelly strums her guitar and sings of struggle, defiance and determination. The alternative look at this character and biblical references twisted by her song lyrics weren’t my favorite part of the show, but could definitely be viewed as one’s own personal view and accepted as an artistic dramatization, in which some audience members found humorous but others may have found themselves slightly uncomfortable as I did.

As Kelly made her first costume change, the audience was treated to a video segment in which Kelly portrays his/her mother. This was superbly written and very funny. I had hoped we would see more of these segments throughout the show but alas this was the only glimpse into Kelly’s on screen character portrayal. Later in the show, Kelly talks about how she is cast for transsexual characters in film and television, which was funny and sad at the same time. The fact that so many actors are pigeonholed into roles that the world of casting only sees them playing because all too often casting directors are unable to see outside the box really makes exploring all sides of your talent difficult.

Kelly introduces us to her “Black-Up Singers” played by Lawrencia Dandridge and Miss Barbie Q, who are both talented as vocalists and offered some humorous background to Kelly’s songs and monologues.

Mantle offers some irreverent and interesting looks into the world of a two spirit identity searching for truth. love and stardom in Hollywood. Some of the references in the show like “Satellite Baby” went over my head at first but I caught on later and I enjoyed the revisions of songs like “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” and “Putting It Together.” But the acoustic version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” was probably my favorite as Kelly sat on the dimly lit staircase and strummed her guitar.

My least favorite part of the show though was Kelly’s foray into the world of politics as she rambled on for 20 minutes about her running into George Bush Jr. at her Uncle Mickey’s funeral. This portion of the show just didn’t fit in to me, nor did it seem really necessary other than to demonstrate Kelly’s fierceness and strength, which could have been done in some other way than a 20 minute monologue. And speaking of Uncle Mickey… I understand that being the nephew of an American Icon is something to be proud of but I felt the show concentrated on the fact that Mickey Mantle has a gender-bending nephew, which I’m sure that EVERY American Icon has someone in their family with an identity crisis. Now if Mickey Mantle had been a huge protester of the Gay community and rallied to destroy our rights and our growing strength in this world, THEN I would be amazed at how he could handle himself in such a way when he would be fighting against someone in his own family. But Mickey was supportive of Kelly, and that in itself should be recognized but should it be the focus of a theatrical event?

Would I recommend “Confusion of My Illusion” to the LA Theatre going audience?... YES, IF and only IF you are curious about the choices and struggles of a gender-bending actor/actress. Kelly is no doubt talented and witty, but the show left me wanting more fun and less statement.

A special Thanks to Director Jon Imparato for inviting me to opening weekend and Kelly Mantle for giving me a look into her life. Many Blessing to you both for continued success and happiness!

Confusion of My Illusion is playing through April 11th at the LA Gay and Lesbian Center in the Davidson/Valenti Theatre. For tickets and information please call 323-860-7300.