Review: In "A Southern Fairytale," Our Hero Makes It Out Ok But Reminds Us That Many Do Not

A Southern Fairytale

Written and performed by Ty Autry

Directed by David L. Carson

Presented at The Kraine Theater

85 E. 4th St., First Floor, Manhattan, NYC

Wed., February 19 at 7:10pm; Sat., February 22 at 5:00pm; Sat., February 29 at 5:00pm; Wed., March 4 at 7:10pm; Fri., March 6 at 5:30pm

Ty Autry. Photo by Mike Glatzer Photography
Fairytales really do come true for queer kids in the South. That is, if they can keep it together until they get the hell out. So goes the narrative of Ty Autry’s one-person play A Southern Fairytale. Advertised both as a fairytale and “The story of a gay Christian growing up in the Deep South,” the play focuses on Autry’s real-life story of growing up gay in small-town Georgia. Not only is the play Autry’s story and written by him, but he is also the lone actor in the play. Part of NYC’s Frigid Festival of independent plays, Southern Fairytale represents the need for these sorts of independent, open festivals.

As the play opens, Autry sits alone on the stage and tells us his story from the first inklings of same-sex attraction to battling family, church administrators, and kids at school about his homosexuality. Autry takes on the name Alex Belmont and frames his story as a fairytale. Each act of the play is broken into sections that match one part of a fairytale narrative structure. The stage is simple: a chair, a table with a book, and a small screen that announces each act of the play, which uses fairytale iconography to signal what part of the analogous narrative of Belmont’s life is being narrated. The narrative does not stick strictly to the fairytale analogy, though, as Belmont’s story seems more psychological horror than fairytale through much of it.
Ty Autry. Photo by Mike Glatzer Photography

Autry as Belmont is infectious, with his wide, bright smile and energy that can fill a stage. He has perfect timing, giving the audience members just enough time to finish their laughing, crying, and gasping at the hilarious recounting of his not understanding sex and the emotional abuse from nearly every adult in his life. And that is the real pain that comes through in this play. From his aloof mother, to his absent yet abusive father, and to pastors tracking his every move, there is not one adult in sight who cares for Belmont’s well-being. They force him into biblical counseling sessions (“therapy”) and back into the closet three times. They nail his window shut and move him around Georgia to keep people from talking. It is just a parade of abuse that needs telling but is hard to hear.

As someone whose own childhood mirrors Belmont’s, the story is sobering at times and makes you realize the thousands of kids who will have to go through the same thing. There is a bit too much leaning into the Southern stereotypes for an NYC audience to laugh at, but that does not overshadow the importance of Autry’s narrative about a kid who just wants to thrive and be accepted not only for who he is but also for what he can become. Belmont/Autry makes it out ok, so it seems. But I could not help but think as I sat there how many kids were currently sitting under the evil gaze of some pastor telling them that “this is just a phase.”

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