Regional Reviews: St. Louis
Transluminate: A Celebration of Transgender, Agender, Non-Binary, Genderqueer and Genderfluid Artists
Also see Richard's review of The Roommate
There is very little that's plaintive or anguished about it, except perhaps the wailing of a religious fundamentalist (played by Helen Pancella) near the end, in Transcodicil. That's the final playlet in the five-part presentation, and the least comedicthough intellectually it's as solid as the rest. Julian Rodriguez plays a trans man, pregnant by his trans wife (elegant Naé Lowery), and both are mystified at being called in to a law office to hear some church-inspired demands in the will of a deceased relative. If you thought trans drama only took place in a parent's house or hospital room, you may be a couple of decades behind.
Producer Sean Michael directs that play and shares the overall directorial duties with Charlie Meyers, who begins the evening with Testosterone People, about a trans man who takes their first hormone injection, under the reassuring gaze of a cis man husband, while they (both) wait for any sign of changes. Delightful, natural Kasey Kopp, who appears in three of the five one-acts, is always right at home, even when everything around her character on stage is changing. Kopp's Jack, transitioning to male, is still married to Andy (Benjamin Hunt), whofor the purposes of this enduring relationshipgraciously volunteers to identify himself as gay. Throughout, the acting is both personal and understated, giving us time to hash out all the changes in our own hearts.
Director Meyers wrote Testosterone People and also wrote and performs in Rest/Peace, a surprisingly deep and moving monolog in which a surviving trans son tries to explain their relationship with their newly deceased mother, to an obituary writer. Rest/Peace draws us in more than any other piece in the evening, with mystery and pain echoing in the mind of the performer (and in ours), as they get the very last mournful word in a long and fraught relationship.
There is thoughtful conflict sprinkled throughout the scenes, beyond Ms. Pancella's professional work as a strident Samaritan. In Wabi Sabi, Mx. Rodriguez plays a mysterious high school student with a mania for the Japanese tea ceremony, and Stasia Kroeger is a whimsical teenaged girl in the library who can't figure out who this new kid is, or why he's breaking the library rules on food and drink, with a thermos, cup, and the peculiar implements of the ritual. But again, the mystery here is in finding out who the "normal" people are, in relation to a changing world around them. The tea ceremony serves as a perfect re-introduction between two old (young) friends.
Nearly the whole cast is on stage for Another Kin. Mx. Meyers directs this Aladdin's lamp type story, that comes to us by way of science fiction. Wasn't it postwar author Clifford D. Simak who sent an explorer through a molecular adaptor to change him in ways that allowed him (and his dog) to survive in different alien gravities and atmospheres? Here, Ms. Kopp returns as Siddhartha to find a body more in tune with "Sid's" soul, and gets three extraterrestrial body choices, traveling from planet to planet. Near the end, the story takes a Scheherazadian turn, with Ms. Pancella completing her work as the wish-granting voice of the spaceship. But then the plot twists again, in a most delightful way.
The whole thing benefits from a pinch of sugar, from both cast and directors, and adds up to an unexpected antidote from our own modern worries and fears. The world keeps turning, and these kids are going to be all right.
Transluminate: A Celebration of Transgender, Agender, Non-Binary, Genderqueer and Genderfluid Artists runs through Sunday March 1, 2020, at the Chapel on Alexander, 6238 Alexander Drive (immediately south of Wydown Blvd. at Skinker Blvd.), St. Louis MO. For more information please, please visit theqcollective.theater/, their Facebook page. Tickets are available at EventBrite.com.
* Denotes World Premiere