Whatever Will Be Will Be
MELBOURNE: Actor Francisco Lopez tells Michael Magnusson that behind the lies and lust in All That I Will Ever Be there is a longing for love.
Pic: Francisco Lopez (left) with Jordan Armstrong, Christian Heath and Sebastian Gunner in Alan Ball’s All That I Will Ever Be. Photo: Jacqueline Barkla
Melbourne’s Fly-On-The-Wall Theatre is staging a return season of their highly successful production of Alan Ball’s All That I Will Ever Be. Better known as the Academy Award winning writer of the hit film American Beauty and equally successful television series Six Feet Under, Ball is also gay and his unlikely story of a male prostitute and his difficult client creates some universal themes.
Fly-On-The-Wall first produced the play as a rehearsed reading at Chapel Off Chapel during Midsumma. Ball’s ready-made cult following saw the reading so successful that, what was originally intended as a one-off event, soon turned into a full-scale production in May. The enthusiastic reviews, full houses and waiting lists for tickets warranted a return season.
Cast member Francisco Lopez returns to play Omar for the third time. Omar is a ‘hustler’ or prostitute, who works by day as a phone salesman and becomes involved with Dwight, a complicated and emotionally abandoned man. Omar has his own problems and hides them behind layers of lies about himself, partly to play the hustler role to the hilt and partly to avoid confronting his own true identity.
Despite the initial hostility between Omar and Dwight, the pair begins discovering truths about each other and themselves.
Lopez considers the play’s title is full of meaning.
“I’ve heard people suggest that ultimately, even though you may change, you will always be who [you] will be. But at the same time for me I think it’s about being inspired to, maybe not change, but to grow and achieve your full potential,” he says.
Lopez says there were some themes which the cast and director explored in the reading that were around the main characters’ sexual identity. Because Omar is a sex worker people reacted to that identity as well as his sexual identity.
“Given that he’s a ‘rent boy’ or whatever you want to call it, people interact with him in that way,” Lopez explains.
“But as we started to explore it more, I think for me, it was like Omar was looking for enlightenment.
“The lessons he learned are really about how we all embrace who we truly are inside and stop denying our past, sexuality, cultural heritage and embrace it and that will allow us to truly connect to people from that depth.”
“Generally we are afraid to disclose ourselves to people,” Lopez continues. “There are so many fears that get in the way for us to truly connect with someone.
“The longing for love and someone who can understand you and how precious and delicate that is.
“You can either fight through it or walk away.”
Lopez says Omar is also judged and an outsider on many levels, including his ethnicity, which is a major issue in current American society.
Omar is Middle Eastern and the play was written and set in post 9/11 America. That creates as much tension as either his social or sexual status.
In the play Dwight, who is from a wealthy and privileged background often insults and belittles Omar because of his ethnicity and because he is a sex worker. Omar partly feeds Dwight’s hostility by lying about his background.
“There are difficult circumstances for Dwight, although I don’t know why I’m trying to defend him,” Lopez laughs.
“One of the things about Omar that he struggles with in accepting him fully, is that he presents himself in certain ways. He makes up a lot of his past, he creates the identity that he believes other people will like or be drawn to. So in the initial stage of that coming together with Dwight, he’s created another whole identity.”
Lopez says a commonality of pain is a theme in the story and sometimes that commonality of pain is what draws the characters together. “But what if that pain was made up?”
According to Lopez, Omar also struggles with living in Los Angeles, where the influence of the film industry has created a façade of false illusion; Ball also finds the Los Angeles lifestyle difficult to embrace and, despite his acclaim as a screen writer, stays on the outer.
“He starts a relationship with a girl from the film industry and encounters people who put on this façade but he feels like they are not in touch with what really matters,” Lopez says.
“And there are few confrontations where people choose their career over someone who might care about them.
“Certainly Alan Ball has been known to have a stab at the Hollywood industry in his writing too.”
Lopez considers however that Omar would think he is the most truthful of everyone in the play, or at least his intentions are truthful.
“That’s the thing that Dwight ends up having to face about Omar. Can he trust someone who has sold him a lie? He even wonders who and what he fell in love with.”
All That I Will Ever Be: August 1-12, 2012. Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel Street, Prahran
Information and bookings: chapeloffchapel.com.au or 03 8290 7000