Reviewed by Kevin Hopps
Wearing a black suit, white shirt, black tie, and a name tag, Robert W. Perkins, the playwright and solo performer of Lock Your Heart, Elder P., delivers an engaging and emotional performance throughout this memoirish play, which makes its world premiere at Studio C.
Director Amanda Bird, who workshopped the play with Perkins at the Noisy Nest theater company, keeps the staging as simple and straightforward as the wardrobe, allowing the audience to focus on Perkins’ love story. The only real accouterments, besides a single, wooden chair, are the overhead projections of slides, illustrating Perkins’ experiences and memories, and the occasional, well-timed musical stings.
Lock Your Heart, Elder P. isn’t your typical love story; it’s a story based on Perkins’ life as a young Mormon missionary in, of all places, Sweden, where he knocks on doors, asking people if they want to “talk about God.” But his performance is no preachy sermon. Thanks to his self-effacing humor and impeccable timing, Perkins elicits plenty of laughs, along with several, well-placed tugs at the audience’s heartstrings.
Referring to the journal he’s kept from his missionary years, Perkins makes it clear that, as a 19-year-old missionary just starting out, he was extremely attracted to his religion. But he was still a teenager, meaning he was also extremely extracted to the opposite sex. And when he finally meets that special girl, he allows her to steal a kiss… and his heart. Therein lies the dilemma: how will this teenage Mormon missionary reconcile his love for a girl with his love for God? Can he be devoted to both? Or will he have to choose between his Mormon beliefs and his blossoming love for the girl? Sorry, no spoilers here. To find out, you’ll have to see Lock Your Heart, Elder P. for yourself. Have faith: you won’t be disappointed.
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