Tony Smith. Photo courtesy Pandora Productions

A Boy and His Soul

By Colman Domingo
Directed by Michael Drury

A review by Craig Nolan Highley

Entire contents are copyright © 2021 by Craig Nolan Highley. All rights reserved.

How much of who we are is predicated by what makes us ourselves? An odd question, surely, and one that we may have never pondered. After watching Pandora’s latest production, it’s a question I can’t help but ask myself.

Actor/playwright Colman Domingo’s semi-autobiographical one-man play, expertly performed by Tony Smith, really brings that question to the forefront. Where would we be if we hadn’t had the family we had, the experiences at school, the struggles, and, most importantly in this case, the music that framed our lives? It’s an intriguing concept, and under Michael Drury’s skillful direction, an engrossing and enchanting evening of theater.

Smith portrays Jay Jay, a young gay man charged with cleaning out his parents’ house to prepare it for sale, as he unearths many memories of his upbringing through the items found in his parents’ basement. But it’s when he finds a huge collection of LP records from the 70s and 80s that he is immediately roused to relate how the music of his youth was truly the soundtrack of his life.

I’ve seen Smith perform in many other productions, but I think this is the most skilled and sincere performance of his career. I’ve said before he reminds me, in both looks and performance, of a young Flip Wilson, and I think that observation is more than cemented here. Wilson was known for the many characters he gave life to, something Smith pulls off amazingly here. He gives Jay Jay an ebullience and love of life that is inspiring to behold, but also, as he tells his story, he inhabits other characters as well, particularly his mother, brother, sister, and stepfather. Each character has a distinctive voice and personality and you can totally visualize each persona.

Domingo’s script is shockingly upbeat. There is very little strife and struggle in Jay Jay’s story; particularly how every member of his family accepts his coming out with little to no drama (the most pushback he gets is from his sister who is mad he didn’t tell her first!). That’s a refreshing change compared to most theater that deals with coming out – even the comedies get a bit heavy-handed with the pathos. The story told here is one every gay teenager should hear.

On the technical side, director Drury did double-duty as set designer and has created a beautifully cluttered basement, heavy on the realism, and nicely lit by Jesse Alford’s colorful lighting.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, Pandora has made the decision to film their shows this season in lieu of live performances, and while I miss the intimacy of watching a show with an audience, they have captured this one well on film. The frequent cutting from close-ups to wide shots could probably have been toned down a bit, but it does bring you in closer to Smith’s performance than you probably would get from an audience seat in a theater.

A Boy and His Soul

January 15, 15, 17, 22, 23, & 24

Pandora Productions
For tickets click here

Craig Nolan Highley has been active in local theatre as an actor, director, and producer for more than 14 years. In June 2019 he launched a new company with Jeremy Guiterrez, Theatre Reprise. He has worked with Bunbury Theater, Clarksville Little Theatre, Finnigan Productions, Louisville Repertory Company, Savage Rose Classical Theatre Co., and WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theatre among others. He has been a member of the Wayward Actors Company since 2006 and currently serves as their Board President. Craig’s reviews have also appeared in TheatreLouisville and Louisville Mojo.