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Theater review: 'Becoming Norman' at NoHo Arts Center

August 12, 2010 |  5:00 pm

KA4U0112 "Becoming Norman" at the NoHo Arts Center is writer-performer Norman P. Dixon's solo show about growing up a gay Mormon in Utah and artistic insecurity in Los Angeles.  As such, this intensely personal piece recalls various autobiographical studies at Highways over the years.

The life-history focus is apparent in designer Lacey Anzelc's set, a collage of photos, mementos and key motifs. Under Debra De Liso's direction, Dixon traces same-sex attraction, k.d. lang infatuation, coming out, traveling to L.A. and his own self-sabotage without hesitation.

Dixon is an appealing presence, with a sweet-toned voice and palpable sensitivity. His songs, well accompanied by Steven Applegate, tend to the inspirational -- greeting card design is a sideline enterprise -- and two, "Time" and "The World Within," carry a melodic pull ideal for STAGE benefits and L.A. Gay Men's Chorus concerts.

It's an evident labor of love, and more power to Dixon for sharing it. Whether this virtual memoir achieves a broader reach is another matter.  There are missed opportunities, as when Dixon remembers childhood dress-up without donning the skirt hanging upstage, and the literal recounting of conversations is at times like a self-realization exercise.

These are decorative issues. The real liability is that Dixon's account doesn't yield much conflict beyond his own or surprises other than his good fortune in family support and current partnership. Per the opening number, "I've Been Here Before." Then again, "Becoming Norman" may well strike a chord in those who've traveled a similar path, which ultimately seems its raison d'être.

-- David C. Nichols

"Becoming Norman," NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Sept. 12. $20-$30. Pay what you can on Aug. 20. (800) 595-4849. Running time:  1 hour, 30 minutes.

Photo: Norman P. Dixon. Credit: Michael Lamont