Written and performed by: Brigham Mosley. At: Odradek Theatre Company at Mary's Attic, 5400 N. Clark St. Tickets: $10 at the door; www.odradektheatre.com . Runs: Feb. 21-23 at 7 p.m.
Just the notion of autobiographical queer solo performance has a certain pretentious ring to it. Unless you're famous, having a one-man show about all or part of your life suggests a certain degree of ego, but Brigham Mosley makes it clear he didn't make the trip from New York City to Mary's Attic in Andersonville to bestow Chicago with the gift of Mo[u]rnin'. After.
Mosley is a storyteller, albeit one with a theatrical edge. There's not much room for a fourth wall in Mary's Attic, but Mosley casually takes the time to break down what little is there. He works genuinely and diligently to engage the audience without any baiting and in less than an hour unwraps a good chunk of his soul.
Mo[u]rnin'. After. is a full-length continuation of Mosley's 2011 performance Oh Whatta Beautiful Mo[u]rnin'. The recent Southern Methodist University grad developed that show under the tutelage of out performer Tim Miller through a six-month grant-funded mentorship program focused on creating new, queer work. During those months, Mosley's grandfather passed away, which took the piece in a distinct direction.
The show is initially an exploration of queer identity through the knowledge that Mosley had great-great-grandparents who were Native American yet were able to pass for white, refashioning their identities to fit in with white settlers. That aspect of the piece is largely overshadowed, however, by Mosley's coping with his grandfather's death, the last person Mosley says he loved closely who did not know he was gay. Throughout the performance, he uses Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! (including dream ballets of a sort) as a pop-culture context through which we can understand his Oklahoman Christian upbringing along with his personal reflections and misgivings.
Mosley catapults into the performance space with a fearless flamboyance, but in time he starts to peel away the showy aspects of his performance until we see that side of him as a piece of who he truly is, not a piece of his persona, or what he might call his italicized self.
The result is something deeply personal, moving and impossible not to identify with. Mosley's story isn't so unique or harrowing that you just have to hear him tell it because it will radically change your perspective. Rather, he demonstrates impressive self-awareness and an ability to communicate his personal story in the most effective way possible.
The rhythm of the performance is probably the one element Mosley still needs to lock down. He moves quickly, which maintains our attention, but his motormouth delivery causes him to trip up on his words time to time and really forces you to listen closely or miss a number of humorous asides.
Not everyone will share Mosley's intensity of sentiment and introspection, but he puts himself, his emotions and his ideas out there in an extremely authentic way that it would be difficult not to sympathize. Odradek Theatre Company has done well bringing in such a fast-blossoming performer whose insights into the intersection between loss and identity are worthy of an hour of anyone's time.