“Things I Could Never Tell Steven” explores love, sexuality and secrets


Stephani Bradley

This musical may inspire its audience to listen to their hearts and take their feelings seriously not only around themselves, but around others too.

Northwestern State University of Louisiana’s Studio 211 presented Australian composer Jye Bryant’s song cycle, “The Things I Could Never Tell Steven” on Jan. 28, 2022 in Theatre West.

The production was directed by voice professor Robert Cardwell and starred Victoria Hickman as the Wife, Dylan Fuselier as the Ex, Leigh B. Leighton as the Mother and Robert McCandlish as the Father. Although the production never explicitly shows Steven, the titular character, it explores the intertwined relationships these characters have with Steven.

Steven is shown as manipulative and extremely distant. He never actually communicates with the people he has relationships with, but he instead chooses to communicate through text messaging and cards on special occasions, such as his wife’s graduation from college.

Now, onto the subject of the Wife: Hickman, junior theater major, brought emotional gravitas and vocal power to the role.

Hickman portrayed the Wife as both idealistic and naive towards the beginning, and jaded and hurt by Steven towards the end. Her delivery of the break-up ballad, “I Still Have Me,” brought the audience to tears.

It is shown that Steven was grappling with his bisexuality through the characters of the Wife and the Ex. The Ex, masterfully portrayed by Fuselier, a senior musical theater major, took pride in his romantic relationship with Steven. Fuselier put his falsetto to good use in the numbers “Sex With an Ex” and “Memories of You,” which elicited a roar of applause.

Sexuality is a key theme throughout the production, and each character reacted in a vastly different manner to the idea. For example, Leighton, a junior performance and directing major, brings their sass and soaring soprano voice to the role of Steven’s Mother. Steven’s mother is rather narcissistic and Mother Gothel-esque, and Leighton did their best to ensure that the character wasn’t portrayed in a cartoonish fashion. A highlight of the performance was the Mother going through Steven’s box of sex toys, hoping to catch him in a lie.

One such showstopper performed by the Mother was “The Bitch is His Wife.” After a bottle (or four) of wine, the Mother rails against Steven’s choice of life partner. Throughout the number, she hurls a string of invectives at the Wife and wishes that the Wife could just divorce Steven already so she could have him all to herself. Leighton’s stage presence and acting choices in this number and throughout the show made their performance that much more memorable.

McCandlish, a senior musical theater major, brought comedic timing and an excellent baritone to the role of Steven’s henpecked father. Despite Bryant’s seeming insistence on writing the role of the Father as a hapless puppet of the controlling Mother, McCandlish brings a level of depth and emotion to the role of the Father.

McCandlish particularly shone in the song “I Never Told You.” Having fallen ill with what is implied to be cancer, the Father wrote a letter to Steven with all the things he has ever wanted him to know. McCandlish imbues the song with the character’s hope that Steven will see how much his father really loved him and that they would somehow gain closure in their relationship.

Overall, Cardwell brought together a strong cast for the second American production of “The Things I Could Never Tell Steven.” The play was a thought-provoking exploration of sexuality, love and the secrets we keep from one another. After all, what we never know won’t hurt us, but the truth can still hurt.