If a show as personally political as David Lee Nelson’s can’t find an audience in this town, he might want to consider another line of business.
But Nelson, who wrote and exuberantly tells his tale in “The Elephant in My Closet” at the Fringe stage at Caos on F, hits precisely the right notes at exactly the right place and time.
Few monologues outside of TED Talks work so seamlessly well with PowerPoint slides, and his first one is already on as the audience enters to the sounds of George Michael’s “Freedom” and Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”
“I’m about to come out to my father,” the slide says. “I’m not telling him I’m gay. It’s much worse than that.”
Nelson, who grew up in the reddest part of one of the reddest states, South Carolina, recounts how he always had Republican politics in common with the father he so admired, giving them a bond as tight as the allegiance to the Virginia Tech Hokies that they also shared.
Raised in the hazy glee of the Reagan era, he grew up thinking George H.W. Bush as a kindly grandfather, despised Bill Clinton and backed George W. Bush, at least at first. Not finding weapons of mass destruction in the Iraq invasion just about undid him, though, and he quit politics altogether before reluctantly voting for Obama in the past election. The only thing harder to do was to tell his dad about it.
That happens only in the epilogue of the fast moving tale, having spent maybe too much time bathing in the righteousness of red. It’s all sharply written, though, and what begins as an entertaining lecture of the GOP origins to its fight against the expansion of slavery goes full circle late in the play as the slides zip dazzlingly back to those images.
Nelson may have been too worried about his father’s reaction overall, though. It’s not like he was disowned at the revelation. They will always have, after all, the Hokies.
“The Elephant in My Closet” by David Lee Nelson. 70 minutes. At Capital Fringe.
Catlin is a freelance writer.