By Donasia Sykes
Wearing a white and blue floral skirt, Foster Lawrence announced, “When I was 18, I fell from a fifth-floor window in Manhattan, and I don’t know how.” This line is repeated throughout the performance as, ten years after that fateful night, he tries to piece together what happened to him.
Throughout the 45-minute monologue, Casey discusses Lawrence’s moving to Chelsea, meeting his first boyfriend, falling from the fifth-story window, living in a nursery home during his recovery, and returning to the New York apartment to figure out what happened. This traumatic experience becomes ingrained in his mind, since he cannot remember the events leading up to the fall.
Casey captivates the audience with Lawrence’s story of connecting the dots of the incident and wondering whether his fall was accidental or intentional. His body glides around the stage as he tells his tale, which feels like an intimate story told to close friends.
Recounting his recovery and physical therapy, he laments that people his age were partying, dating, and enjoying their youth, while he remained stuck in a nursing home with elderly patients. Although his survival was miraculous, he was left with pins and a metal rod in his leg. Lawrence also notes that his family and friends were embarrassed about helping him, and that the cool people from his hometown stayed to work there, instead of moving to big cities like he imagined they would.
Inspired by his mother’s journals about his coming out, he reads through written notes about moving from a small town to a big city, his first boyfriend, and the police’s lack of care about investigating his accident. When he discussed having to go above the police officers to the Governor to get any information, and discovering that his case was dismissed as open-and-shut, his story resembled countless narratives of LGBT people reporting attacks to police officers, only to face discrimination and victim blaming.
At the end, the audience never learned whether the fall was accidental or on purpose, but then again, neither did Lawrence. In a sense, Lawrence wanted to know exactly what happened that night in order to emotionally heal, but healing doesn’t have to involve knowing exactly what happened. Healing can also mean simply moving on from the trauma. Since the police carelessly closed his case, he, in a sense, did as well, before being able to make peace with what happened. But at the end of the performance, he throws the papers he was reading from against the wall, finally letting go of his past trauma and moving on.
“What Happens To Boys In Chelsea”
Written and Performed by Ryan F. Casey
Sept. 20 at 7:30pm
Stage Manager: Holly Sansom
Photo: courtesy of the production
United Solo 2018
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
DONASIA SYKES is a freelance writer currently based out of Brooklyn, NY. She graduated with a BA in English and Textual Studies with a concentration in Creative Writing from Syracuse University, where she saw and performed in various small stage shows.