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Open: 10/14/12- Close: 10/29/12 The Elephant in My Closet
Reviewed for TheaterOnline.com By: Brett Epstein

The first half of the tagline for The Elephant in My Closet: “Me. Coming out of the closet to my father.”  Think you’ve pegged exactly what this one-man show will offer?  Part two of the tagline: “As a democrat.”  That’s right, this isn't a gay-themed play.  All his life, actor David Lee Nelson was fervently two things: 1) Incredibly close to his father and 2) A republican.  Can their relationship survive now that David’s moved to the left side?  That is the question Closet poses, and the journey to the answer is often hilarious and consistently entertaining.

Clocking in at just one hour, Nelson takes us through his childhood, teenage years and young adulthood.  He describes the tight bond with his father and his upbringing as a devout (albeit moderate: he majored in Theatre and had three friends come out to him in college) Republican.  Along the way, he - along with slideshow photos - wittingly reminds, teaches and lectures us about a plethora of topics.  Some of Nelson’s best bits involve Maine (clearly the whitest state, he says, because it’s got a 97.8% white population and it’s where earmuffs were invented), Newt Gingrich (“he looks like he’s two drinks away from telling you what he really thinks about black people”) and Bill Clinton (he shouldn’t have been off the hook so easily because “he lied under oath, not during Never Have I Ever”).

For the most part, the script is smart and features enough clever one-liners to sustain a one-hour running time.  And Adam Knight has successfully directed Nelson who is a lively, animated presence at all times.  I do wish Nelson utilized different vocal tactics to get across his points.  Some moments turn into a shouting match -- David vs. David -- when subtlety would have been more valuable.  The solid writing speaks for itself so there’s no need to yell -- let alone this is a one-man show, so that constant vocal umph will take a toll as the performances continue.

There’s not enough information given or time spent on David’s change from conservative to liberal.  It appears a move to New York City is all it took, which makes the conflict over the hour seem low stakes.  Nelson is comedically gifted but I kept wondering if he could dig deeper.  He ably follows the path of his script but he isn't comfortable veering from it, causing a lack of connection with his audience (when people reacted to a photo on the screen, he improvised briefly then stumbled a bit to get back on track).   Music between the ‘acts’ would have also been nice so that the audience is not sitting in dead silence listening to David drink water.  When the music selections by David Hunter do arrive, they’re a welcome surprise – such as a quiet ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ in the background.

Ultimately, Knight and Nelson have developed a show that is timely, original and best of all one that smoothly flows from start to finish.  It’s a Closet worth stepping inside.


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Venue:
Kraine Theater : 85 East 4th Street