While the publicity for Sex, Dreams and Self Control seems to promote a loud, wild show, what’s interesting about Kevin Thornton’s memoir of sexual self-discovery is how poignant and even gentle the show is. Although Thornton’s story is frequently graphic and profane, the humor is understated and his original music is surprisingly mellow in telling how Thornton gradually accepted and came out about his homosexuality.
Kevin Thornton grew up in a small Southern Indiana town in a strong religious environment. He describes how it felt to grow up in this environment where his Mom’s response to sexual exploration was “We will never, never talk of this.” The shame he felt about his initial sexual yearnings, first over a mannequin and then towards a schoolmate he invites to Bible study, are awkward yet funny coming of age episodes that can appeal to any mature audience members. Similarly, his struggles with religion, meeting sexual partners, and dealing with a sexually transmitted disease are also mined for painfully funny effect.
Thornton, who cites as influences the writings of David Sedaris and the performance art of Sandra Bernhard, is a fine storyteller who recalls life events with richly detailed description. He delivers his recollections with a winning mixture of personal musings, low-key stand-up comedy, and folky alternative rock interludes. The fact that Thornton has an extensive theatre background and that he’s been performing this show for six months are evident in his smoothly confident stage manner.
Thornton is a talented musician who is in an underground new wave band named “Wave After Wave.” His original music for the show includes both comedic efforts (“After Bible Study Handjobs”) and more tender moments, evidenced when he sings that “What you cannot change can make you so weary.”
Ultimately Thornton accepts himself and finds comfort from coming out to his family and a former youth pastor. The story takes a while and doesn’t have much more of a message than self-acceptance is a good thing. It can be genuine and touching, but also has stretches where it may be too unassuming or where Thornton’s glibness wears a little thin.
Overall Sex, Dreams and Self Control is a well-constructed show by a talented performer.