Theater review: Leslie Jordan's 'Fruit Fly' at the Celebration
Leslie Jordan clearly adores his mama. In a new one-man gab-fest he calls "Fruit Fly," the saucy actor-raconteur recalls accompanying her to the beauty shop, where he would absorb the banter and, back home, make her laugh with impersonations of the ladies -- a boyhood activity he much preferred to ball-playing.
His mother, he surmises, sensed right away that he would face some extra challenges while growing up in Chattanooga, Tenn. Quite young, he developed a flair for accessorizing with red cowboy boots, and his reading tastes ran to Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew, not "those rambunctious Hardy Boys." Mom began circling the wagons so that he'd have a safe place to become the person he was meant to be.
The world now knows that person as the actor who portrayed the Tammy Wynette-channeling Brother Boy in Del Shores' "Sordid Lives," the sexually ambiguous Beverley Leslie on "Will & Grace" and the harried, muttering newspaper boss in "The Help." He's a stitch, forever innocent and boy-like at just shy of 5 feet, yet with a penchant for blue-flamed chatter that scandalizes polite society even as it triggers shrieks of laughter.
Family snapshots flash onto a screen at the back of a tastefully fussy, charmingly old-fashioned living room designed by Jimmy Cuomo. Jordan's recollections seem off the cuff, yet under David Galligan's pinpoint direction, they cycle subtly through light and dark, drawing Celebration Theatre audiences ever deeper into the story's depths.
Oh, yes, there are depths, from losing the father who "was better looking than anything Hollywood has ever put out" to the problems that Jordan created for himself -- for as much as his mother tried to smooth his way, he stubbornly roughed it up again, he confesses.
From time to time, Jordan is a bit too concise, failing to fill in details that would provide a completer picture. But one figure shines through, perfectly formed.
You're quite a mama, Peggy Ann. Thank you. And to all mamas: Thank you. We love you.
-- Daryl H. Miller
"Fruit Fly," Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Feb. 18. $34. (323) 957-1884 or www.celebrationtheatre.com. Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.
Photo: Leslie Jordan, in his solo autobiographical show "Fruit Fly," tells us why he loves his mama. Credit: Matthew Brian Denman