By Jim Gilles
Eli Hans’ AND … OUT OF THE BLUE: A Gay Man Finds Love Despite Life’s Challenges
On Saturday, June 10, at the Zephyr Theatre in West Hollywood , Eli Hans presented the U.S. debut of his charming musical – And . . . Out of the Blue – A Miraculous Musical, a one-man mini-Broadway show, with a whole lot of help from his partner Joseph Bennett.
As part of the line-up of shows in this year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival, there were only two performances of this charming staged musical, featuring writer-composer-performer Eli Hans, who portrays some 25 characters along the storyline of his life journey as a Mexican-Polish-Jewish gay man. After a dire cancer diagnosis in 2014, Eli realizes that in order to truly heal, he must peace with his past as a gay kid on a quest for love. In the musical, he navigates his several identities, dealing with his parents and learning to accept himself through shame and fear, coping with tragic loss, navigating through the burgeoning AIDS crisis in the 80’s, miraculously finding true love only to then get cancer, yet managing to turn all of those challenges around and thrive. Sounds a bit sentimental? Yes and no. The wonderful stage presence of Eli Hans does give one time to get too sentimental.
Infused with humor and original music, And … Out of the Blue is a heart-warming and inspiring true story celebrating the resilience of the human spirit. Eli takes the audience on an intimate ride filled with love, laughter, heartache and miracles. When all is said and done, everyone deserves a chance.
Eli actually grew up in Mexico City, in a conservative Polish Jewish family that had immigrated to Mexico long ago. Some of the best humor in the play is the first part to the story, with Eli coming to terms with the complex identify being Mexican, Jewish, Polish, and, apparently, gay. In his staging of his tale, he is constantly confronted by two invisible allegorical voices: Shame – an over-the-top, sarcastic diva – and Fear, an insecure, nagging, neurotic angst – influencing all of his decisions, until he eventually vanquishes them.
Eli’s tale quickly skips ahead, but not without some cleverly written songs which the actor sings with Broadway panache. Eli starts the show with a glittery, soft-shoe opening number to the show and, at the very end, indulges himself and the audience in a similar closing dance number, which includes his husband Joseph. Eli’s romantic and sexual experiences form part of the narrative – discovering he is likely a gay boy and teenager, eventually finding love only to lose it – once tragically in a heart-breaking suicide – but they are recounted with heart, much humor and pathos.
After thinking he would likely never find true love again, on fateful morning in San Diego, during the summer of the year 2000, Eli got the urge to ride his bicycle to Balboa Park during the Pride festival, where there was a same-sex commitment ceremony. Immediately after arriving, a handsome man with deep blue eyes approached him and, out of the blue, asked him if he wanted to do the “life partner” ceremony along with other couples. It soon began apparent that this man was not only a kindred spirit, but truly an ideal life partner. So, Joseph, who has been busy on stage helping with props and costume changes as a stagehand, surprisingly joins Eli on stage during the third act, as a second actor in the production.
Of course, this happy relationship between Eli and Joseph was not without serious challenges. In 2014, Eli developed a serious cancer and, after deliberating about what treatment to follow, he decides to undergo chemotherapy – which he calls “Love Juice” – and endure its miserable side-effects. The treatment, along with many other alternative choices he made, are eventually successful and he recovers his health. Obviously, Eli is a real survivor and his sense of resilience, hope, and joy in living keep this musical delightfully up-beat. This show is highly recommended for anyone who might benefit from a high dose of inspiration and laughter – and especially for those who might learn to believe in the power of healing and self-discovery, regardless of age, gender, sexuality or health status.
An alumnus of the Stella Adler Academy of Acting, Eli is the co-founder of The Improv People (San Miguel de Allende’s well-loved improv troupe) and has enjoyed a 20+ year career as a voiceover actor. On stage, Eli has appeared in Neil Simon’s Chapter Two, Donald Margulies Dinner with Friends, and Michael Hollinger’s Opus. His true love is performing in musicals and musical revues, including Fiddler On The Roof, A Funny Thing Happened, How To Succeed in Business, The Pajama Game, and Closer Than Ever. His favorite role: Emcee in a musical revue of Cabaret.
In San Diego, at the Old Globe Theater, Eli assisted director Richard Seer in the production of Blue Orange and was director of a bilingual theater education program called Teatro Meta for teenagers at-risk. At La Jolla Playhouse, Eli assisted director Mark-Wing Davey with the Spanish production of Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding; at The Fritz Theater, Eli co-directed Extreme Unction in New York with Duane Daniels. As a playwright, besides And… Out of The Blue, several of his plays have been produced,including Snip-Snip, Intrusion, and Airpain – The Musical.He has produced and directed national and regional TV commercials and numerous theatrical productions. He resides in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Eli is joined onstage by Joseph Bennett, his husband of almost twenty-two years, who appears later in the show as Eli’s ultimate life partner. Joseph, also co-founder of The Improv People, is the stage manager of And … Out of the Blue. He danced with the Wilmington Ballet for eight years and has appeared in numerous plays and improv shows. He co-hosts (with Meredith Grundei) the podcast Are You Waiting for Permission? Meredith Grundei directed And … Out of the Blue, with the performance produced by Jessica Lynn Johnson.
The two performances of the show And … Out of the Blue at the Hollywood Fringe Festival have now passed but, according to Hans, streaming shows are periodically available for viewing. There are plans to present the show at colleges, cancer centers, theatre festivals, and on international stages. To contact Eli Hans and learn more, please visit OutofTheBlueShow.com.