Review: ALWAYS A BOY at Ground Floor Theatre

A positive testament to a family’s capacity to love and affirm their transgender child.

By: Feb. 21, 2024
Review: ALWAYS A BOY at Ground Floor Theatre
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Austin Theatre is currently providing us with some interesting and informative LGBTQ+ perspectives on which to marinate. At Ground Floor Theatre, director Lisa Scheps has taken on Jo and Jeremy Ivester’s ALWAYS A BOY, while just up the road, City Theatre director Andy Burkovsky tackles Jonathan Tolins’s THE TWILIGHT OF THE GOLDS.

TWILIGHT OF THE GOLDS explores the ethical implications of genetic testing and the complexities of family dynamics, focusing on the potential consequences of knowing and altering the genetic traits of unborn children, While ALWAYS A BOY delves into the journey of gender identity and the challenges faced by individuals who transition from one gender to another. It explores themes of self-discovery, acceptance, and the societal pressures surrounding gender norms. TWILIGHT OF THE GOLDS explores the complexities of familial relationships and the struggle to reconcile personal values with societal norms. ALWAYS A BOY focuses on protagonist Joshua’s journey, delving deeply into his experiences, emotions, and relationships as he comes to terms with his gender identity. The play offers insight into Jeremy's struggles, triumphs, and growth throughout his transition.

Review: ALWAYS A BOY at Ground Floor Theatre

In this review, we’re looking at ALWAYS A BOY, a play centering on a young man named Joshua (Jeremy Ivester) and his mother, Rachel (Molly Fonseca) as they prepare for a big family wedding day. Three different actors play Jeremy, and this effective storytelling device gives us a wonderful insight into the difficulty our transgender brothers and sisters have with expressing their true identity in a world that falters, fails and in some cases, refuses to understand them.

Co-playwright Jo Ivester serves as chair for the Ground Floor Theatre board, and is on the boards of Equality Texas, the Central Texas Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Texas Board of GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network). Her son and co-playwright Jeremy, is the subject of Jo’s book, Never a Girl, Always a Boy, and plays his current self in GFT’s production of ALWAYS A BOY.

Joshua serves as a kind of Greek Chorus that moves into and out of dialogue with his mother, Rachel, whose story this seems to be as much as his. Kaden Ono gets some great scenes in as Young Joshua, but the bulk of the story in ALWAYS A BOY comes from College Joshua, played by Laura Leo Kelly. Kelly, who is tasked with almost all of the character shifts and conflict, is a steady and energetic Joshua. This entire cast is fully committed and includes Ivester, Kelly and Ono, Molly Fonseca as a dedicated Rachel, Chelsea Corwin and Max Green as Joshua’s energetic siblings Becca and Seth, and Trace Turner as Joshua’s bestie, Tucker. As Joshua’s dad Richard, Nathan Jerkins turns in a both funny and strong performance as the character who may be the most changed by the impact of Joshua’s transition. 

Review: ALWAYS A BOY at Ground Floor Theatre

The production values Scheps puts into ALWAYS A BOY are great. CB Feller’s scenic design is just the kind of crisp, clear, and uncluttered vision I love to see in a production that calls for many scene changes without changing the set. This contributes to a quick momentum for this ninety minutes with no intermission show, with the only changes required found in Jacqueline’s Sindelar’s lighting design.

Review: ALWAYS A BOY at Ground Floor Theatre

The pacing, however, alongside the particular tone and intent of this play, contribute to an absent tension that would benefit the audience in deepening their experience of the transgender struggle. It’s a counterintuitive intent to Jeremy’s story, though. I can’t say enough about how important it is for all of us to see more affirming stories, as this one is, of coming out to our families. This show is a testament to a family’s capacity to love and affirm their transgender child, and grow closer to each other because of it. As Jo Ivester points out in her show notes: “As we explored the mother/son relationship in the script, we had to explore our own relationship(s)... surrounding the extraordinary adventure of finding one’s true gender identity. The entire experience has been a true joy, both the adventure itself and the writing about it. What more can a parent want more than to see their child happy and flourishing!”

Everyone should see ALWAYS A BOY, especially LGBTQ+ people and their straight loved ones. We desperately need, in today’s cultural climate, more stories that show us that coming out and generously affirming the “other” is possible and real. I offer deep gratitude to Ground Floor Theatre, Jeremy and Jo Ivester, and director Lisa Scheps for bringing us this important story.

Written by Jo Ivester and Jeremy Ivester
Directed by Lisa Scheps
Ground Floor Theatre
979 Springdale Rd
Suite 122
Austin, TX

Runtime 90 minutes, no intermission

February 2nd through March 4th