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a Drama
by Anna Ziegler

COMPANY : Theatrical Outfit [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Balzer Theatre @ Herren's [WEBSITE]
ID# 5137

SHOWING : September 28, 2017 - October 15, 2017



1968-1990. Davenport, Iowa and Boston, Massachusetts. Inspired by a fascinating true story covered by Oprah, documented by the BBC and exposed in a best-selling biography, "Boy" asks us: does nature or nurture determine who and how we love? A renowned doctor convinces the parents of a male infant to raise their son as a girl after an accident, and years later, the repercussions and realities of that choice unfold and alter lives. With humor and tenderness, "Boy" explores the tricky terrain of loving oneself and others amidst the confusion of gender identity as one very special young person simply yearns to be himself.

Director Melissa Foulger
Trudy Turner Daryl Lisa Fazio
Adam Turner Clifton Guterman
Dr. Wendell Barnes Tom Key
Doug Turner Matt Lewis
Jenny Lafferty Annie York
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Boy, Oh Boy!
by playgoer
Monday, October 2, 2017
Anna Ziegler’s "Boy" tells the story of an identical male twin whose botched circumcision resulted in his penis being completely removed and who, under a doctor’s supervision, was surgically altered (partially) and raised as a girl. The story is told with a lot of jumping about in time, accompanied by projections of the year (often duplicated in voiceover) and the sound of a tape recorder being rewound or of a film projector sputtering as it unspools. Sound design is by Dan Bauman.

The set, by Barrett Doyle and Joel Coady, features walls and the suggestion of vaulted ceilings that consist of 2x4s ranged in two rows a couple of feet apart, their ends beveled at the top. Panels with abstract paintings are positioned here and there to give the walls some heft, with more realistic set dressing in the four playing areas (the doctor’s office up center, Adam’s apartment down center, his parents’ home at right, and a car interior down right). Two framed doorways are featured, along with undifferentiated openings that allow entrances and exits. It all works fairly well, although one late sequence seems almost laughably odd, with the doctor knocking at a large painting upstage right that suddenly represents a closed door, ostensibly to the apartment whose interior is downstage left of it, with its door frame far left.

Lauren Robinson’s lighting design highlights different areas of the stage to help represent individual locations. Even an aisleway in the audience is lit at the start, as Adam (Clifton Guterman) and Jenny (Annie York) enter at a Halloween party, with the rest of the scene played at the intersection of the two platforms that make up the floors of the main playing areas. Samantha P. McDaniel’s costumes get their biggest workout in the Halloween scenes, but her minimally midriff-baring sweater for Jenny hardly seems revealing enough to warrant Adam’s scandalized reaction. Adam’s initial outfit of a long T-shirt for his costume as Frankenstein’s monster soon gets recycled as a girl’s shift for the next scene. Other costumes attempt the same sort of transition, with less success. A. Julian Verner’s props consist mostly of cans of beer and, at the start, red plastic party cups that obviously are empty of the liquid supposedly being imbibed.

Melissa Foulger has blocked the show with little movement within individual scenes, although the frequent scene changes from location to location and from time to time give the illusion of movement. The overall production doesn’t show evidence of a strong director’s touch. There are a few outbursts and strong dramatic moments in the equivalent of a second act in this long intermissionless show, but otherwise the action plods along.

Performances and characters are not compelling. Adam’s doctor (Tom Key) speaks largely in the measured, falsely cheerful tones used by a teacher in instructing small children, and Jenny seems to be partying white trash that Adam is essentially stalking. Adam’s mother (Daryl Lisa Fazio) is weakly accommodating, and his father (Matt Lewis) is a go-along type of guy who finally gets an outburst late in the show and ends up being the most compelling figure in the story.

Adam himself (Clifton Guterman) is the biggest problem. Like Mr. Key, he is on the staff of Theatrical Outfit. His character is described as having effeminate characteristics (a residue of the years Adam spent learning to be a girl), and Mr. Guterman ably embodies that. He does not do a good job, however, of showing the malleable, innocent side of Samantha (as Adam was called in childhood). Samantha soon starts acting out, and comes across more as a brat than as a conflicted child. His stalking of Jenny and his fixation on reading to her four-year-old son come across as creepy more than caring. We get a feel-good ending with resolution of Adam’s relationships with his doctor, father, and girlfriend, but there’s a dramatic hollowness to the feeling.

Ms. Ziegler’s script takes a long time to get moving and throws in unnecessary literary references. Leigh Hunt’s poem "Jenny Kissed Me" plays a crucial role in the plot, but it’s not a poem that suits itself to reading aloud. Its introduction as the doctor’s favorite poem seems to be a blatant way to position it for a tender moment at the end of the play, just as Adam being an identical twin seems to be a blatant way to introduce a moment of mistaken identity late in the play (even though that’s a fact in the life of David Reimer, the real-life person on whom Adam is based and who committed suicide at 38). Taking real-life incidents as a basis for fiction or drama is fine in and of itself, but "Boy" seems to revel in trivializing the ordeals of David Reimer to leave audiences with a uplift. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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