by Jason Booker
The reason to see the SOULO show is the people who made it – who are also the ones in it. Bravely confronting their backgrounds, the three monologues that comprise this show were written by each of the performers about their own experiences and, using their natural charm, they tell touching stories that should be heard. The show begins with an upbeat and brassy gay anthem while the three performers and their unnecessary and unfunny emcee parade on to dress the stage in Pride-related paraphernalia. While this business sets the stage and introduces the performers, themes and style of the piece, it feels tacked on rather needlessly, which they unfortunately return to at the show’s conclusion. Marco Bernardi, the middle monologist, oozes charm, telling of coming out to his Mother, his professional aspirations and the search for a boyfriend. His energy betrays his training as a storyteller and stand-up, since his story seems malleable to modification as Bernardi plays directly to his audience from the edge of the stage, often prompting interaction with his material. The final soloist, DJ Edwards, brash and brazen, comes onstage in a platinum blonde wig and sequined dress and leaves a different person. Edwards as Vicki Lix has a loud, in-your-face persona but he strips away the over-the-top female to reveal his Saskatchewan roots and introverted adolescence. Sadly, many of the times during his story when he is about to make himself most vulnerable – speaking of his first hookup in a park for instance – Edwards yanks back from the brink, burrowing himself in an ultra-butch persona. The style of show they have chosen demands that the performers bare themselves emotionally, but Edwards chooses to do that literally instead, hiding behind his characters, which he concedes may be unhealthy but is his coping mechanism. The heart of the show, though, actually initiates the proceedings, in a position that maybe should have been swapped with Edwards. Terrence Bryant narrates his childhood, growing up in a large family and knowing he is different, skipping to school and travelling abroad after he loses too many friends to AIDS. He is the essential piece of the story, informing the audience that there are dark moments but there is hope and there is survival, because look at everything he has come through. Grounded and heartfelt without overexposing himself, Bryant provides the historical context for his younger counterparts but also manages to connect on a deeper and more professional level than his cohorts, likely due to his professional acting credits. A charismatic and moving show, SOULO keeps it raw and simple but never seems unpolished, though sometimes it needs to recall that there is more to being queer than simply coming out and that the play does not need to apologize for going to those dark places.