Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fringe 2010 - Prince & A Pauper - 4 stars

When Prince Makes It Just A Little Easier To Be Gay

Prince & A Pauper - Gremlin Theatre

Andrew Fafoutakis

"Theater is my boyfriend. It's always been there for me in good times and bad. And the sex is amazing."

Anybody who saw Andrew Fafoutakis' Fringe-For-All preview, or caught him the night before the Fringe opened at the Out of Towner Showcase at Bedlam, know that the guy knows how to work a crowd. Seeing Prince & A Pauper in its entirety delivered on the promise seen in previews. The production is largely a "this is the story of my life so far" confessional, but Fafoutakis knows how to keep it fun. Added bonus, Prince provides a killer soundtrack, and Andrew does a mean Prince karaoke whenever the evening needs a little jolt.

"The name Andrew means strong and manly. And I think we can all see how that turned out."

Growing up biracial (Greek-Mexican) and gay, in a military family who moved around a lot, was no picnic. Thankfully, Fafoutakis had his sense of humor to keep him sane, and he uses it very liberally throughout the show. Life with a happy ending is always a comedy. You just have to live through the rough patches to be able to see them later for the humor they can unfold to you. His first hurdle was the obvious one - being a person of mixed heritage in a country where everyone needs to label you in order to feel comfortable. (The one question you get most often? "What ARE you?!") The next hurdle, coming to terms with his sexuality, was a lot trickier. But thankfully, there was Prince.

"I was five feet from God."

Prince, with his own racial heritage, and hypersexual performance style, was a real eye-opener for young Andrew. In Prince, he saw all the possibilities that life might have to offer even someone who looked like himself, and felt the way he did about other boys. Prince has been Fafoutakis' longest, most satisfying relationship, outside of the one he has with theater itself. ("I still buy every album. No matter how terrible.") Prince not only gives him the material he needs to rule karaoke night, but even today Prince's music provides the anthems he needs to keep going - struggling as an actor, fresh out of grad school, trying to make it in New York City. ("The thing they don't tell you in acting school is that there are way to many f**kers trying to be actors.")

"It was like 'The Real World,' with less homophobia and racism."

Fafoutakis says at the top of the show that the production is going to be mostly about his relationship with Prince and his music, with a little bit about himself to provide context. To be honest, it's mostly context. We get a full guided tour of Andrew's entire life up until, well, this show. Each of his boyfriends (all of whom have "white college boy" in common - "Are you sensing a pattern? Don't judge me."), though we don't get to know them as people, we do get to see how powerfully they impacted him as a person. Each, like Prince, was a stepping stone on his path to less fear, and greater self-acceptance. When a boy takes his hand without a second thought to walk through the Mall of America, "I was just scared we'd get stoned to death in front of The Gap. Or Gap Kids. Or Baby Gap. Most likely Baby Gap." Fafoutakis needed to shed just as much fear as he did weight in order to feel really good about himself.

"It didn't help that I was a short fat kid who looked like Al Pacino."

It's Fafoutakis' charming personality that keeps Prince & A Pauper on track. Is this sometimes way too much information? Yeah. Are these encounters with men and tales of theater as meaningful to us in the audience as they are to him? Of course not. But because Andrew Fafoutakis is such a genuine, sweet fellow, and is so obviously grateful for all the milestones in his life that have led him to this point, and even more grateful to have an audience ("braving the long arduous journey to St. Paul"), well, how can you begrudge him an hour of your time. Particularly when it's such an entertaining hour?

"I felt like I found a unicorn."

With Prince & A Pauper, Fafoutakis is learning how to build a one-person show, and tell a story. He's got the mechanics of it all down now, and it shows. He's learned how to channel the irrepressible and odd spirit of Prince, and more importantly, he's learned how to be himself. Who knows what other characters and one-person shows lie ahead? Sure, he has the characters of his colorful family, and those mysterious iconic boyfriends to delve into. But if he can capture the unique personality of someone like Prince, I'd wager any number of characters are within his grasp. I had fun, as did the rest of the audience, at his first one-man show, so I'm curious to see what's next. Meanwhile, you still have a chance to see how he got started.

4 stars, Highly Recommended

NEXT PERFORMANCE - Friday 8/13 at 7pm

(Final Performance - Saturday 8/14 at 8:30pm)

His Fringe page

Fringe show #34 - Wednesday, 8/11 10pm


And here's a handy index of links for all blog content on the 2010 Fringe!

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