By Christopher Popple
Juha Sorola’s “About Heroes” is told from two perspectives. The first is that of a young gay man growing up in an era when heroes were defined by war, and gay men were stigmatized. As the young man comes to accept his sexuality, he looks for a hero and a role model who could inspire him. He finds that unconventional hero in his biological grandfather, a World War II soldier who deserted the war, was branded a traitor and a communist, and gave his children up for adoption. The story of the young man is interspersed with his grandfather’s journal entries, which comprise the second narrative.
The tonal contrast between these two stories gives the show its unique voice. A heart‑wrenching war story in the middle of a mostly good‑humored coming‑of‑age tale is bound to cause a bit of emotional whiplash. But this performance powerfully juxtaposes the grief of war with the struggles of the oppressed.
In its lighthearted moments, the show has plenty of good jokes; Mr. Sorola remembers “crashing out of the closet” as a young man. When the show turns serious, Mr. Sorola gives a very dark, animated and moving performance. He doesn’t rely on music or lighting to set the tone. Instead, he focuses on the weight of his words and the grief in his voice.
The set is minimal, the only props being a single chair and the grandfather’s journal. We are given glimpses of the pages, and Mr. Sorola performs a clever gesture with the journal at the end of the grandfather’s story.
“About Heroes” is a refreshingly unique performance, full of intelligent writing. It is an emotional and empowering story.
Written and Performed by Juha Sorola
Oct. 7 at 7:30pm, Nov. 5 at 6pm
Photo: courtesy of the production
United Solo 2018
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
CHRISTOPHER POPPLE is a Monmouth University graduate and budding reviewer.