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3/15/16

Oh Boy (and Oh Girl)

About two years ago, there were several plays mounted in New York detailing a family's aftermath of a Bernie Madoff-like scandal. Micro-trends as such pop up every now and then and the current one sweeping the NY theatre scene is the emergence of transgender characters and themes pertaining to gender identity. Who knows how long it will last, but it is a welcome sight as far as I'm concerned, especially when plays like Hir (Taylor Mac’s most recent offering challenging modern gender conventions and featuring a trans-male character), continue to be gold mines of hilarity and sapience.

Having said that, Boy - Keen Company’s world premiere, playing at the Clurman Theatre - is…just there. It terms of notability, it’s "The Danish Girl" of Off-Broadway - topical, but window-dressing when compared to much better works in the field.

The most transcendent aspect of Boy was the lead performance and that is not exactly surprising considering this is Bobby Steggert we’re talking about here. His character experiences a botched circumcision, resulting in his parents raising him as a girl instead of a boy (the entirety of Boy is based on David Peter Reimer's lifestory). Steggert alternates between playing Samantha, at a young age, and Adam later on (when Samantha opts to revert back to being a male).

It is amazing how much emotion Bobby mines from his character’s decently rich arc. Samantha’s introverted disposition progresses into Adam’s short fuse and confusing/sad outlook…and Steggert nails everything with little help elsewhere. He morphs between both versions of the same person without any drastic changes in costume (in fact, he’s costumed like an extra with a t-shirt and jeans), mannerisms or vocal inflections. Whomever Bobby is performing just works with his discretion well-deployed, and he is often-times heart-breaking to boot.

Even so, Bobby’s performance couldn’t help keep my mind from wandering off to what flavor of Schmackary cookie I could go for or how much banana pudding I was going to devour at Magnolia Bakery (yep, that’s my brain, ladies and gentlemen). While I understand playwright Anna Zeigler’s decision to feature both Samantha’s and Adam’s journeys interchangeably, each portion seemed unfinished and anchored the other throughout the 90-minute runtime. And even with the short runtime, some scenes dragged on for days, it seems...

And in terms of the whole “nature vs. nurture” conceit, the point was made with a gavel slam that individuals will do as they are internally-inclined to do…all well and good, but Boy has too many scenes of Samantha's doctor’s superfluous yammering (Adam’s story fares better as his love interest is not insufferable and is confounded/intrigued as you would expect) to fully explore this classic trope. A shame because this show could have been a post-modern reinterpretation of a coming-of-age story…but Steggert’s performance aside, nothing about Boy is worth remembering at all.


Ticket Provided by the Production


Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg

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