BWW Review: SOUTHERN COMFORT at Stagecrafters Navigates Transgender Life in 1990's Rural Georgia
In twentieth century media, something that's often called for (and only sometimes applauded) is diversity. This can include diversity in terms of race, sexuality, religion, gender, and countless more I can't even begin to name. Stagecrafters' production of Southern Comfort, which runs through May 12th at the Baldwin Theatre's 2nd Stage, is an excellent representation of how diversity in the media can only lead to beautiful stories and even more beautiful storytelling.
Having run briefly at Off-Broadway's Public Theater in 2016, Southern Comfort is the story of several transgender friends as they navigate their lives in rural Georgia. Though the core of this story is about this found family, the person at the center of everything is Robert Eads. A transgender man diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Eads was a real person whom the 2001 documentary Southern Comfort is all about. Similar to Rent, Southern Comfort takes us through a year with Eads, his girlfriend Lola Cola, and the rest of their "family" as they prepare for the Southern Comfort ball in Atlanta.
Of everything, perhaps the most fine-tuned aspect of Southern Comfort is the music. Julianne Wick Davis' bluegrass-reminiscent score and Dan Collins' lyrics work magnificently in harmony with one another, especially in songs like "Bird," "My Love," "I'm With You," and the finale, "Home/Spring (Reprise)." Coming out of the theatre, I was saddened to learn that there's not a cast album of this show. I'd truly believe I'd never get tired of listening to this score over and over again.
Though each of the actors brought something intriguing to the show, two standout performances for me were Katie Jostock's Melanie and Ramon Bush's Sam. Their chemistry is on fire, as are their acting capabilities, both of which really makes the audience invest in their relationship.
Another couple in the story with great chemistry was Alonzo Luzod's Lola and Megan Meade-Higgins' Robert. The audience goes from not being too sure about Lola to falling in love with her, which can be primarily attributed to Luzod's storytelling talent. Furthermore, as the lead of the show, Meade-Higgins never fails to command the attention of everyone in the room when she's on stage. Though I haven't yet seen the original Southern Comfort documentary, I can only imagine that the real-life Robert Eads was the exact same way.
Directed by Jay Kaplan, Southern Comfort runs at Stagecrafters' 2nd Stage theatre in Royal Oak until May 12th. For more information and tickets, visit www.stagecrafters.org.