BWW Review: In THE PINK UNICORN a Texas mom wrestles with her daugher's gender neutrality
Playwright Elise Forier Edie is often asked how much of The Pink Unicorn is true. She answers "all of it" and "none of it." All of the events depicted happened to someone, including herself. A high school refused to allow the formation of a Gay and Straight Alliance Club. Transgender children and their families are shunned, harassed and threatened for allowing freedom of expression.
Written as a one woman confessional, Trisha Lee takes us through her unexpected journey as a mother. Sparkton, Texas is a small town where everyone hangs the American flag on the fourth of July and goes to church on Sunday. Her daughter decides that she wants to go to her new high school as a person without gender. Jolene becomes Jo and adopts the pronoun "they."
While this subject matter continues to rise in popularity, rarely does it seem as honest and generous of spirit as it is here. As written, the play creates a believable story arc for this complicated mother/child relationship. Alice Ripley's heartfelt and earnest performance adds layers and layers of emotional depth. By the end, there is a freedom expressed that is not simply obvious. Trisha Lee is still imperfect but that's exactly what she should be.
Along the way, Ms. Ripley (Next to Normal, Side Show) gets to wring quite a few laughs out of her observations. Jo owns a pet tarantula that she wears on her shoulder "like a furry epaulet." On the male/female scale, there is Marilyn Monroe on one end and Charles Bronson on the other. "Where I'm from, talking to the ACLU is the same thing as talking to Satan."
Jo has been raised without her father who died in an accident. She has an imaginary Pink Unicorn named Star Dancer. She confuses Mom. She's not hiding that she's gay. She's trans. If she were drunk or pregnant, her mother would know what to do.
To Mom's credit, she holds her pocketbook decorated with butterfly appliques and tries to understand and even learn something. LGBTQ are "all different evidently." Listening to a woman walking through the uncharted foreign territory of gender neutrality and pansexuals is intended to be comforting, eye opening and, I presume, calmly reassuring and instructive to similarly perplexed parents.
In this play, a priest delivers a sermon in Trisha Lee's church. The author wrote it "pretty much word for word" as spoken by pastor in her former church. He invoked the Holocaust and likened supporters of the LGBT community to Nazis. As a Christian woman, both author and her protagonist wrestle with lines from the Bible and the people who conveniently pick and choose which ones they believe. Yes, it remains stunning how the religious community has completely abandoned "do not judge and you shall not be judged."
Out of the Box Theatrics is a small company founded in 2015 dedicated to producing new and classic works from a fresh perspective in site specific locations. The Pink Unicorn is being staged in The Episcopal Actors' Guild, upstairs above the Church of the Transfiguration. The guild's history is one rich in support of the acting community and those in need.
The play would definitely benefit from a few less metaphors (especially those concerning animals). This intimate venue is an ideal way to spend some time with Trisha Lee. The story is timely, important, nicely told and prompts thought. Spending more than an hour and a half enjoying Alice Ripley deliver this monologue in a room with two dozen people is the icing on a joyously hopeful rainbow cake.