For seven years comedian and actor David Lee Nelson has been performing at Piccolo. “I made money on four shows, lost money on three, and broke even on one,” he says. Now, for the reprisal of his 2012 hit The Elephant in My Closet, he’s hoping to go in the black and give audiences a fresh take on his political one-man show all about coming out … as a democrat to his father. But a lot has changed since the 2012 election.
“Last time I did the show it was just before the election,” says Nelson. “This time, we’ve retooled and added in all the political stuff that’s gone on in the past couple of years, like the government shutdown, Obamacare, Todd Akin talking about legitimate rape. We felt like there was a little bit more of a story.”
And since the story is based on Nelson’s real-life relationship with his Republican father, the comedian had plenty to riff on. Nelson himself grew up as a fanatic Republican, and that connection with his dad was the super glue that bonded them together. But, after getting into theater, his world expanded, and inevitably Nelson started to lean left, a shift that upended the father/son connection.
“After the 2012 election I called my mom and was like, are we canceling the holidays?” Nelson laughs. But in all honesty, he says what Elephant brings to light are the real divides varying political opinions can have within a family.
“By doing this show, and with my relationship with my Dad, I show that not all liberals have pink communists horns coming out of our head,” says Nelson. “And my liberal friends up in Massachusetts and New York see that not all Republicans are backward or wear Klan hoods.”
At the same time, Nelson is quick to say that the play is not a soapbox campaign to sway voters one way or another. Elephant is not a lecture. “My director Adam Knight and I hate theater where there’s too much learning. We like when something happens and you learn. We’re just trying to tell a story.”
Through a PowerPoint presentation on the history of the Republican Party, cracks on the Grand Ol’ Party, and a dash of heart, The Elephant in My Closet will entertain audiences of all political persuasions.
And while Nelson wouldn’t have written the play if he wasn’t just a little pessimistic about the current state of America’s government, he does confess that his Dad has seen his show four times, and absolutely loved it. So there’s hope for this country yet.