For a minute it’s pitch black. The pristine voice of writer Justin Sayre pierces the silence. He begins Love's Refrain, a one-man show, by using the stories of the stars to frame his life. A single blue light bulb hanging from the ceiling illuminates Sayre and the audience seated on all four sides of the room. Suddenly, the rest of the bulbs come to life and our attention is turned to a man in a dress beneath a hundred lights.
There is a Shakespearean rhythm to Sayre's life story, a fitting musicality as he explains how he was charmed by Romeo and Juliet. Sayre viewed the 14-year-old Juliet as an imaginary friend, launching into a monologue ripe with emotion and humor in all the right places. He expresses experiences we’ve all known, but have never been able to put into words.
Sayre employs a whimsical style of storytelling to recount memories of his mother and grandmother, just two types of love among many throughout his life. From young infatuations to his first sexual experiences, Sayre describes the pain and joy of formative moments with the same uncomfortable beauty he uses to describe his suicide attempt. As Sayre's story reaches an emotional peak, he stops to dance with himself. Lost in the dreamy music under the warm lights, he moves around the stage with vulnerable passion.
Although Sayre's best known for his comedic variety show, The Meeting of the International Order of the Sodomites, he shows a vulnerability that cuts deeply and resonates. His life as an eccentric romantic is equally as relatable as it is worthy of a standing ovation.
Love's Refrain plays through April 10 at La Mama, 74 E 4th Street in New York. Tickets and more info are available here.