The 4th annual UNITED SOLO THEATRE FESTIVAL is at Theater Row on 42nd Street October 3 – November 24 with 121 productions. Indie Theater Now editor Martin Denton looks at Leading Men written and performed by Blake Walton.
In his gorgeous and affecting solo play Leading Men, Blake Walton takes his audience on a journey through his manhood, and we meet the two men who made him the man he has (and continues to) become. One of these is Huck, his son, and the epiphany that came to Blake in the first moments when he held Huck in his arms makes for one of the most beautiful moments in the show (one that was happily captured in our United Solo preview podcast, here at 15:30). The other is his Dad, with whom his relationship was more complicated, stretching from a few discrete memories from before the time his parents divorced through the emotional final week spent with his father, now widowed and an octogenarian, straining to cope with those details of his life that his late wife had insulated him from.
Leading Men is loaded with anecdotes and memories of both of these men, all remarkably immediate and revealing and honest and delivered with an unflinching intimacy that’s all too rare even in the arena of solo theater. Working with his longtime collaborator Ann Morrison (who is the show’s director and also the mother of Huck; she ran the show from the back of the theater at the United Solo performance as well), Walton has created a deeply moving memoir of a man’s lifelong quest to learn to be the best son and father he can be, all the while asserting his own manhood and individuality.
There’s also a mini-history of society’s attitudes–about manliness and what it means to be a man; and about being gay–from the Eisenhower Era through the present day. Walton looks back on the times he’s lived through with wisdom and insight. And humor. Lots of humor: this is, in places, often when we least expect it, a very funny play, too.
I felt honored to be in the audience at the official world premiere of Leading Men. I wish it long long life, as it’s an experience countless others should have the opportunity to enjoy.