There’s an old saying that goes: “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” It fails to specify, however, what the road OUT of Hell might be made of.
Ty Autry might have a few ideas about that.
As we see in “A Southern Fairy Tale,” Ty has been to Hell and back at least three times before he’s seventeen, and that’s without taking into account his ongoing struggle to stay in one school for more than a year at a time, his stint at a Christian gay conversion camp, and a series of increasingly nightmarish interactions with the Powers That Be in his small rural town, deep in the American South.
And all he really wants is to find his Prince Charming and live happily ever after, preferably in a castle. With children. Three. Is that really too much to ask? Apparently so, at least in Georgia.
This is a clever and well-written solo performer play, a intensely personal narrated journey about the transformative power of, as the character puts it, “faith and fairy dust.” Both components of that phrase are equally important for understanding the propulsive forces behind this intriguing piece of theatre. As the plays peels through through chapters of Autry’s young life, it’s clear that one of his most important struggles is presrving and advancing his personal relationship with God despite a religious system that insists he forfeited that simply by being who he is. “A Southern Fairy Tale” is a story about Christianity as much as it is about sexuality.
Within both narrative threads, Autry balances painfully obervant self-disclosure about his teenage years with crackling wit and just the right amount of camp. There are lines from this play that I’ll enjoy remembering for a long, long time (spoiler alert: watch for his pithy irony about the effectiveness of conversion therapy in a campground setting).
He is also a natural performer, with an exceptionally mobile face and a great command of the stage. There’s quite a voice there, too; when he wants to, Autry can roar and boom in the best Southern pulpit style. This serves him well in “Fairy Tale,” and bodes even better for his future work.
When all is said and done, this is a brave and entertaining piece of theatre, as well as a manifesto from a perspective not often found in gay theatre. And, based what we see in “A Southern Fairy Tale,” I bet that if you asked Ty Autry to I.D. the nature of the road out of Hell, he could do it in a single word, too.
And I bet that word would be “love,” which, when you think about it, isn’t really all that far a stretch from faith and fairy dust.
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