This compelling and moving solo play recounts his gradual coming out that starts in 1986 when he was ten in Caracas. Comical and dramatic incidents in his childhood, harrowing events during his high school and college years, and his arrival in New York City at the age of twenty-one are vividly presented.
Coming out is a process, it’s not something you do once and then it’s done. First you have to come out to yourself, and that can take a long time. And then you have to come out to other people, and sometimes, you have to come out to the same people again and again.
The very fine and keenly structured writing by Eduardo Leanez and Patrick E. Horrigan is richly specific in detailing the character’s formative fixations that include Jean-Claude Van Damme, Menudo, Greg Louganis, beauty pageants and telenovelas. Also represented are his doting but stern mother, his distant father, and his contentious younger brother as loving antagonists.
A very poignant sequence takes place when Yoel is in college and meets a fellow drama student, the first man where there are mutual feelings. He immaturely and regretfully spurns him due to fear. His mother observes, “Your eyes are puffy. I heard you crying last night. Your grandfather used to say, ‘a man cries only twice in his life—when he loses his mother and when he loses the love of his life.’ So…you must have lost the love of your life.”
In addition to co-writing the play, Mr. Leanez portrays Yoel. He is a whirlwind of energy and emotion which range from childhood to adulthood and to acting out the other roles as well. Animated and highly expressive, Mr. Leanez depending on the particular portion of the material is marvelously comic or effectively dramatic. He also joyously dances with colorful steamers and light sticks used at gay nightclubs in the past.
Yanko Bakulic’s set design is a cool replication of a Rubik’s Cube. The wall is covered with colored panels arranged in the style of that toy and Yoel turns them over to reveal pictures of his objects of fascination and desire. Several nearby television monitors show illustrative images and clips and Rohan Shinde’s skillful animations. Media and sound technician Basil Horn’s contributions include the expert mixing of sound effects and pop music such as Menudo, Survivor and The Pet Shop Boys.
These elements are all well complemented by Barbara Parisi’s superior lighting design that utilizes strobes, disco balls, and other effects to visually convey the passage of time and states of mind.
Director Rosalie Purvis has achieved excellent results with the physical staging combined with the integration of the overall production. However, at eighty minutes the show feels slightly longer than ideal. This appears to be a combination of the need for somewhat condensing the material and in some places a faster pace to Mr. Leanez’s performance.
The uplifting conclusion of You Are Confused! brings Yoel and the world up to date, with news items about gay tolerance and developments in his personal life. “The world keeps changing, time goes by, and we change with the times.”
You Are Confused! (through June 21, 2015)
Ryan Repertory Company at the Harry Warren Theatre, 2445 Bath Avenue, at Bay 38th Street, in Brooklyn
For tickets, call 1-800-838-3006 or visit http://www.youareconfused.brownpapertickets.com
Running time: eighty minutes with no intermission