×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Fruit Fly

Leslie Jordan's latest monodrama "Fruit Fly" goes heavy on the nostalgic reminiscence and light on the politics, with a sentimental message of social tolerance and self-acceptance built in.

With:
With: Leslie Jordan

If Leslie Jordan didn’t exist we’d have to invent him, this irrepressible, garrulous Chattanooga pixie who got through a Southern Baptist childhood and stirrings of Gay Lib and lived triumphantly to tell the tale. His latest monodrama “Fruit Fly,” in its world preem at the Celebration, goes heavy on the nostalgic reminiscence and light on the politics, with a sentimental message of social tolerance and self-acceptance built in.

Jordan is our latter-day Oscar Levant, raconteur extraordinaire. Levant had his music while Jordan has his acting (he was Megan Mullally’s nemesis on “Will & Grace” and Emma Stone’s boss in “The Help”), but in both men, their genius can be found in their talk.

As comfortably as Jordan wanders about Jimmy Cuomo’s antebellum-tinged parlor set, you can just as readily imagine him rapt in cornpone chat with Jack Paar about Barbara Sinatra-coiffed mama Miss Peggy Ann who, he remembers fondly, “created a secret garden where it was O.K. for little boys to play with dolls.”

The Jordan matriarch beams down at us in the family slideshow projected upstage, which isn’t to imply she took her little boy’s unconventional sexuality to her bosom immediately. Enduring a husband’s early death in a plane crash and a son’s dicey foray into drag nitelife, she falls prey to a psychosomatic illness right out of Flannery O’Connor, the inability to keep her eyes open (unless she has to, in which case she props ’em right open, God love her). A climactic invite to a gay Alaskan cruise finally brings her around.

Jordan animates his anecdotes with verve and impromptu audience asides, whipping out impressions of the likes of Miss Odessa (besotted, walleyed madam of Miss Odessa’s Goodtime House) as unexpectedly as he threw that cartwheel in “The Help.” And once he describes drag compadre Miss Lily White’s prize-winning routine, it’s guaranteed you’ll never listen to Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” the same way again.

This slight but engaging material might seem more substantial if the lighting weren’t so patchy, instruments helter skelter as if hung during one of those Gulf hurricanes. Helmer David Galligan needs to ride herd on designer Matthew Brian Denman to contrive a fuller, more flattering wash.

Fruit Fly

Celebration Theater, West Hollywood; 64 seats; $34 top

Production: A Celebration Theater presentation, in association with Reaction Productions, of a play in one act written and performed by Leslie Jordan. Directed by David Galligan.

Creative: Sets, Jimmy Cuomo; lighting, Matthew Brian Denman. Opened, reviewed Jan. 6, 2012. Runs through Feb. 18. Running time: 75 MIN.

Cast: With: Leslie Jordan

More Legit

  • A still image from The Seven

    How Magic Leap, Video Games Are Defining Future of Royal Shakespeare Company

    At the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford upon Avon, Sarah Ellis has the difficult job of figuring out where theater of the 1500s fits into the 21st century. As Director of Digital Development, a title which might seem out of place in an industry ruled by live, human performances, Ellis represents a recent seachange on [...]

  • Gary review

    Broadway Review: 'Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus' With Nathan Lane

    Nathan Lane and Kristine Nielsen, two of the funniest people on the face of the earth, play street cleaners tasked with carting away the dead after the civil wars that brought down the Roman Empire. Well, a job’s a job, and Gary (Lane) and Janice (Nielsen) go about their disgusting work without complaint. “Long story [...]

  • Laurie Metcalf, John Lithgow'Hillary and Clinton'

    Why John Lithgow Worried About Starring in Broadway's 'Hillary and Clinton'

    When Lucas Hnath first conceived of “Hillary and Clinton” in 2008, he was writing for and about a very different America. Now, a total reimagining of the show has made its way to Broadway with Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow in the titular roles. At the opening on Thursday night, the cast and creatives talked [...]

  • Three Sisters review

    London Theater Review: 'Three Sisters'

    Ennui has become exhaustion in playwright Cordelia Lynn’s new version of “Three Sisters.” The word recurs and recurs. Everyone on the Prozorov estate is worn out; too “overworked” to do anything but sit around idle. Are they killing time or is time killing them? Either way, a play often framed as a study of boredom [...]

  • Patrick Page, Amber Grey, Eva Noblezada,

    'Hadestown' Took 12 Years to Get to Broadway, but It's More Relevant Than Ever

    When “Hadestown” was first staged as a tiny, DIY theater project in Vermont, those involved could never have predicted that it was the start of a 12-year journey to Broadway — or how painfully relevant it would be when it arrived. At Wednesday night’s opening at the Walter Kerr Theatre, the cast and creatives discussed [...]

  • Hillary and Clinton review

    Broadway Review: Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow in 'Hillary and Clinton'

    If anyone could play Hillary Clinton, it’s Laurie Metcalf – and here she is, in Lucas Hnath’s “Hillary and Clinton,” giving a performance that feels painfully honest and true. And if anyone could capture Bill Clinton’s feckless but irresistible charm, that would be John Lithgow – and here he is, too. Who better to work [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content