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Review: TO T, OR NOT TO T? at Center Theatre Group

Review: TO T, OR NOT TO T? at Center Theatre Group

A Comedic Trans Journey Through (T)estosterone and Masculinity

Too often in mainstream Queer media, we see cis gay men painted as silly and fun while Trans people, gender expansive people, nonbinary people, femmes, and everyone else is relegated to period dramas and trauma porn. In Center Theatre Group's latest Block Party offering, To T, or Not to T?: A Comedic Trans Journey Through (T)estosterone and Masculinity, the central role of multiple Trans artists allows for a broadly accessible evening of fun that manages to grapple with many layers of societal comment and introspective critique. Writer and performer D'Lo exudes coolness in his purple print button down and Lakers cap, and from his first entrance, it is evident that we are present for a fully polished, fully fleshed-out tour de force evening of theatre. Their energy remains at a full ten for the duration of the evening, and they take full advantage of the saffron-colored playground they inhabit, landing as entirely playful and free while still delivering a meticulously structured narrative drama.

Thanks to a fruitful collaboration with director and dramaturg, Adelina Anthony, D'Lo makes thorough use of every inch of the stage, sharply punctuating stories with surefire punchlines, outlining complicated musings on Queer global masculinity, and even repurposing Shakespeare in a new light to memorable dramatic effect. Scenic designer Tanya Orellana, who recently crafted a stunning environment for American Conservatory Theatre's Fefu and her Friends, has created a malleable play space in which D'Lo's childhood antics can be recreated, yet can still feel sacred and austere enough to house reflections of mourning, shifting belief systems, and solemn instances of prayerfulness.

Though the piece at differing moments (and for differing audience members) may serve as a mirror, a call to action, an affirmation, or a welcoming learning experience, it is perhaps most powerful when all of the elements come together and allow D'Lo to engage in pensive ritual. It is a strongly resonant theme throughout the piece that, even when one's family cannot accept oneself, or even when learned self-hatred sneaks its way into one's heart, the Gods, the ancestors, the constellations, and the very fibers of our universe are aligned with Queer actualities. For this message and these profound moments, 'beautiful' is a dismissive understatement. The audience is seamlessly welcomed in to a profound and holy weightiness that is rare in an offering from a major regional theatre. Though Rose Malone's lighting design and Meena Murugesan's projection design have strong impacts in these moments, at times, they become extraneous trappings which muddy the clear imagery D'Lo is able to conjure with language and movement.

Other regional theatres should take a look at CTG's Block Party model, which platforms works previously produced at smaller venues around LA. This work, which was originally produced at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, is worthy of centralized attention from the city's theatre scene. The word 'ritual' seems to pervade the fringe theatre scene, but here, it is used to its absolute fullest truth. Audiences should prepare to attend this ritual with the openness they might attend a philosophy lecture or (as D'Lo slyly jabs) a "new-age white lady's" pilgrimage to Bali.




From This Author - Andrew Child

Andrew Child is a director, designer, choreographer, and actor based on Massachusetts' south shore who has an affinity for clowns, puppets, Shakespeare, new works, multi-media creations, and community... (read more about this author)


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