Theatre in Review

Friday, 19 January 2018 22:54

Review: Boy at Timeline Theatre

Long before Jeffrey Eugenide’s novel 2003 ‘Middlesex’ brought intersexuality to the mainstream lexicon, there was David Reimer. ‘BOY’ by Anna Zeigler is a new play inspired by the real life story of a boy raised as a girl after a botched circumcision. Reimer was known only as the “John/Joan” case throughout the medical community until 1997, when he decided to make his story public. He has since committed suicide.

‘BOY’ makes its area premiere at TimeLine Theatre Company under the direction of Damon Kiely. In their intimate space, this small cast tells Zeigler’s version of the John/Joan case. The structure of the play is one its strongest assets. We first meet Adam (Theo Germaine), a shy young man trying to flirt with a girl named Jenny (Emily Marso). Starting here establishes the present tense, or in this case, the early 90s. In alternating scenes, we then meet Adam’s parents Doug and Trudy (Stef Tovar and Mechelle Moe) in the mid-60s. They’re new parents desperate for a way to make normal the life of their infant son whose penis is mutilated in a medical accident. They’re introduced to Dr. Wendell Barnes (David Parkes), the founder of the first American institute on gender. The two stories gradually meet in the middle when Adam must confront his past in order to move into his future.

The brisk pace tells a complete story, if only a little brief. A story as unique as this probably garners more questions than answers. The ensemble works well together to demystify this case study. The courtship between Theo Germaine’s Adam and Emily Morso’s Jenny is endearing. Morso perfectly embodies the dialogue of a tough-girl with a warm side. Whereas Theo Germaine gives one of their best performances yet. Theo swings from child to grown up in the blink of an eye throughout the play and yet, it’s through those swings we can see that Adam never really grows up. Stef Tovar and Mechelle Moe as the stereotypical Iowan family dealing with this surreal reality are impeccable. Moe has the mannerisms down. While Tovar’s character is pretty quiet throughout the play, his final moments on stage with Adam are some of the play’s most touching.

‘BOY’ will surprise many. As the National Geographic pointed out last year, we’re in the midst of a gender revolution. What is the most surprising is how accessible this play is. Unlike Taylor Mac’s comic masterpiece ‘HIR’ – there’s no tone of condescension here. The play is simply a well-structured, fictionalized account of the John/Joan case. It’s as juicy as an episode of the Phil Donahue show but there’s also a lot of heart here, and it begs the bigger question, what would you do? Zeigler’s version of the real life Dr. Money (who wrote about David Reimer extensively) – Wendell Barnes, is written in a way that will make some debate whether or not he genuinely cared for his patient or proving his extreme gender theory. Though, it’s through this (unfortunately) failed experiment that we know so much more about sexual science today.

Through March 18 at TimeLine Theatre Company. 615 W Wellington Ave. 773-281-8463

Published in Theatre in Review

 

 

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