HF: The Sum of My Parts at Elephant Studio Stage Theatre

The cool thing about the Fringe Festival here in Hollywood is that everyone who is willing to put it out there has a voice. Michael Mullen is trying to get his voice heard because his story is a little different than most stories. The Sum of My Parts is Mullen’s one-man monologue – a quest, if you will, to find his identity. You see, Mr. Mulligan believes that he is a woman trapped in a man’s body. As he talks about his youth growing up in Texas under attack from homophobes in school and an ultra-religious mother, he takes us on his personal journey from Texas, to Boston, to the Southwest, and finally, to Los Angeles – a place where everyone is accepted, whether they like it or not.

Mullen’s journey to womanhood, as you will, is not an easy one. Not even after arriving in Hollywood. This is not a singular story, but The Sum of My Parts is definitely a touching one. Part confessional and part stand up comedy routine, this show captures the essence of Michael Mullen as a young performer not so much seeking an identity but seeking acceptance. His one-man show is inspired by his video “I Feel Like A Woman,” which was recognized as an official honoree at the 2010 Webby Awards for “Public Service and Activism.” He tells of playing with dolls as a kid and playing dress up in his mother’s closet. With self-effacing humor, Mullen takes jabs at himself and those who have caused him pain. The minimal set consisting of store mannequins decked out in fabulous garb provide the necessary props and costumes for him to transform himself into any character he wishes. On the small stage, Mullen is larger than life, occasionally making eye contact with the audience. His story is compelling enough and the themes are universal despite the specificity of his plight.

Is the show perfect? No. But then again, it doesn’t have to be. For sure, it is a work in progress, since Mr. Mullen looks to be far too young to have lived a full life that is rife with anecdotes and the secrets to life. When it works, he is a soul bared on stage, vulnerabilities and all. The pure honesty fills the stage and affects everyone in the audience. The Sum of My Parts works well as a monologue because it is written from an honest place as opposed to written for the stage to be interchangeably performed by any actor. That is its strength. At its worst, it is a work in progress that is not too far off the mark. With a few more years and some more self-reflection, it can only get better. Perhaps this time it will be told by a woman? It remains to be seen. In the meantime, this show is a life-affirming kick off to the Hollywood Fringe Festival.

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About Obed Medina
Obed received his BA in Creative Writing from the University of California at Riverside. He has freelanced and volunteered at various theatre companies in Los Angeles since 2002. He launched his own workshop theatre company in 2008 and has produced six original one-act plays and one Off-Broadway hit. Currently, he is living in Ashland, Oregon working on his writing and founder of Collaborative Theatre Project.

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