SALT LAKE CITY — The Gay Uncle Explains It All to You is one of the many that the Salt Lake Fringe Festival has offered the last two weekends, and it is billed as “A Celebration of Pop, Camp, Gay, Underground & Trash Culture of the 60’s & 70’s and Beyond” on the Fringe website. Jeffrey Robert has put together a one-man show that seemed more like a mix between a stand-up routine and a memoir of what it was like to grow up gay in the ’60s and ’70s. Robert has an endearing quality, and the stories that he told ranged from humorous to touching. The audience was laughing and crying, and the experience was more interactive than most theatrical productions. It felt like I was part of a group conversation, rather than a one-man production.
Robert began with what it was like to see people like Judy Garland and Bette Midler and other now dubbed “gay icons” on television after school. Robert is also an artist, and throughout his stories he showed many caricatures that he had created while discussing his heroes of the past and present. Interspersed throughout this he had clips of music that helped him tell his stories. Among the more frivolous and the fun he interjected lesser known historical facts about Stonewall and the origins of the pride parades and pride festivals.
One of the most touching things for me was the conversation he had about the biological families and logical families. The biological is, of course, the family someone is born into, but the logical family is the family each person builds around ourselves. I find that an excellent way to view how people become connected to one another throughout life.
I enjoyed this production, but felt it was much more a memoir or a conversation than a play. That was a little unexpected, so there was a shift I needed to make in my mind. However, having done so, I am really glad I got to sit in the company of Jeffrey Robert and learn about his path to who he is today.