G is for Gender Variant: Blogging from A to Z Challenge

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This post is a little delayed and for a good reason. It was a post that I wanted to take my time with, not dash off in some hurried manner just to meet a deadline.

Over the past couple of years, there have been several stories that people shared with me about parents who accept and support their children from a very early age as it pertains to their sexual preference and/or gender identity. The most notable stories were the woman whose son was in love with Darren Criss, the family who raised their daughter as a boy and Brangelina’s willingness to call their daughter Shiloh by her preferred name: John. When people share these posts with me or my husband, they usually say something like, “I saw this and it made me think of you guys!” The reason why is because we have a daughter who shares similarities with each of the children in these stories and my husband and I share similarities with their parents. Every time someone shares one of these viral stories, I tell myself that I want to write about my daughter.

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My husband and I have three girls, a fifteen-year-old and twelve-year-old fraternal twins who are as different as night and day. From a very early age, I’m guessing around four, one of my twin daughters began to show signs of gender noncomformity. One morning, as were getting ready for day care, Izzy peered at me from atop the toilet and asked, “When am I getting my peanuts?” Mind you, the male genitalia is not something we generally talked about at the dinner table. Assuming it was because of the shared bathroom experiences in her potty training years at day care, I went with it and said something snarky like, “Why would you want one of those? They cause nothing but trouble.” To which she responded, most assuredly, “Because then I could pull it and tug it like the boys!” She also wanted one because, like every other woman on Earth, she wanted to pee standing up.

In the few short years that followed, our daughter openly identified herself as being gay and would develop crushes on other girls in her elementary school classes. During that same time, she eschewed any feminine clothing, favored playing with her Nerf guns over dolls and eventually chopped off her long, blonde, curly locks in favor of a high and tight hairstyle. It was easy to support these choices for her because it made her happy. To the wait staff in the restaurants, she was always little buddy or dude. Initially, we would correct them but after she told us it didn’t bother her, we stopped.

Halloween

The people that meet Izzy generally fall in love with her. She is energetic, funny, smart, kind and unique. She embraces who she is and so do the people that get to know her. Over the years, I’ve had conversations with people about Izzy and it is interesting what people will say. The most common thing I hear is that she is just a tomboy or probably going through a phase. Yes, it is entirely possible. We all go through phases in life. I have also been told that there is no way that an elementary school aged girl could possibly know whether or not she is gay. I’m sorry, when was it exactly that you knew you were attracted to the opposite sex? There have even been people who have suggested that because my husband and I allow her to make these choices we are encouraging her to be gay. Does that mean that I encouraged my other two girls to be straight?

When Izzy wanted to join scouting, she was disappointed that she couldn’t join the Boy Scouts. She didn’t want to do crafts and sell cookies, she wanted to play basketball and race cars in the Pinewood Derby. Fortunately, the scout leaders got wind of her disappointment and let her join as an honorary member. Those really were the best years for her because she was completely comfortable in her skin, got to do what she wanted to do and with friends who had been going to school with her for six years. They didn’t question her choices, they were just her friends. She got so comfortable that she even came out to a few close friends when she was in fifth grade.

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As the middle school years approached, we were getting a little nervous and so was Izzy. Middle school, if you recall, is horrible. I know very few people who recollect their middle school/junior high years with great fondness. As Izzy’s elementary school career was ending, marriage equality and a string of teen suicides related to sexual identity were prominent in the media. Izzy developed a heightened sensitivity to issues related to bullying, diversity and acceptance. One afternoon in February, she created a Bob Dylan Subterranean Homesick Blues style video about the topic, in which she wrote:

Hello people.
I don’t have sound so I will write.
Don’t worry. Nothing will be sad.
LOL
People in my school are nice.
They would not if they found out if I was gay.
Get this. I’m a girl.
Thx for watching.

Six months later, Izzy was navigating the nasty terrain of middle school, the place where you desperately want to fit in but still want to be true to yourself. While she continues to remain true to herself, she is a little more quiet about it these days. She finds herself avoiding the bathroom so she doesn’t have to endure the eighth grade girls screaming at her to get out because she’s a boy. Thankfully there are understanding teachers that allow her to go during class time when the bathrooms aren’t filled with classmates asking her if she’s a girl or a boy. She even decided to wear a dress to the school dance after not wearing a dress for five years. This was followed by her requesting to go shopping for some more feminine clothes. Why? So she wouldn’t get questioned when she went to the girls’ room. Seriously, there should be some sort of universal law that mandates unisex bathroom in public places. Just ask Izzy. Or any woman who has stood in line at the theatre or a One Direction concert.

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A couple of summers ago, my husband and I decided to give the girls the opportunity to go to sleepaway camp. Two of the girls opted to go to the more rustic 4H camp in Windham-Tolland while Izzy, due to an aversion to bugs and an affinity for basketball, when to an indoor Nike camp. Last year Izzy opted not to go to camp. We later discovered that the reason she didn’t want to go to camp was, once again, because of things like being split into boys vs. girls teams or having to decide where to go to the bathroom.

Last week I posted about Camp Aranu’tiq, the summer camp for transgender and gender variant youth located in beautiful New Hampshire. When my husband and I heard about it, we asked Izzy if she’d be interested. Right away she Googled it and soon thereafter gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up, proclaiming, “It’s a camp with people like me!” So now Izzy will get to fish, swim, kayak and play basketball without being concerned about having to dodge a million questions. As for the bugs, that’s another story.

If Izzy decides she would prefer to be called Zack, I’ll do it. If she asks us to switch to male pronouns, we will. If she someday desires to undergo hormone therapy, we will find the money to make it happen. As of today, she hasn’t asked for any of these things. And perhaps she never will. The thing that is most important to me is that my daughter is happy. I am no different from any other parent who strives to have children that are happy and healthy.

Now I don’t profess to be an expert on being transgender or gender variant. I have read a lot about gender variance in the last year or so and I still have much to learn. I can only imagine how it must feel to be in a body that you don’t feel comfortable inhabiting. But I don’t have to imagine what it is like to make every effort to ease any discomfort my daughter may experience by ensuring that she is loved, accepted and supported. Every day. No matter her choices.

And in the end, isn’t that what we all want? Well, that and more unisex bathrooms. And the ability to pee standing up.

F is for Facebook: Blogging from A to Z Challenge

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I’m in my mid-forties and I will be the first to admit that I am addicted to Facebook and have wasted countless hours scrolling through my feed, reading your memes, looking at your cat pictures and silently judging you for your snarky, passive aggressive statuses. Admit it, you do the same thing. Well, maybe you aren’t judging quite so silently, depending on how many cocktails you’ve had or which hot button has been pushed.

I was a Facebook early adopter. When I first joined in December 2006 most of my friends were high school and college students that I did theatre with. Slowly, as my circle of friends grew, so did the average age of the people with whom I interacted. As time wore on, Facebook became this hybrid social media platform. It was a networking tool, an advertising medium and a way to keep in touch with friends and family, both near and far.

When my eldest daughter turned thirteen, I told her that she could get a Facebook account. I had artfully dodged requests from her friends while they were still in elementary school and told my daughter that when she was thirteen she could get an account. When her thirteenth birthday arrived, she sneered at me and said, “Facebook is for old people, Mom.” Oh, the humanity! Instead, her digital biography is being played out on Instagram, Twitter and, the site that I really don’t get, Snapchat.

For the better part of the last decade, I have checked my Facebook multiple times a day, with the exception of a brief hiatus I took during a difficult time a couple years ago. I have learned that when I begin to exhibit the Facebook behaviors that I loathe in others, it is time to step away.

There are several bad behaviors on Facebook and numerous articles about the subject have surfaced through the years. For me, Facebook reminds me of high school, a place fraught with cliques and stereotypes that really aren’t that different from the ones I endured almost thirty years ago:

The Mean Girls (Boys) These are people on Facebook that are constantly making sure you know how much better they are than you. They have more money, they have better jobs, they are smarter and better looking. They will constantly post selfies and statuses letting you know it, too.

The Popular Kids These are the people that have more “friends” than God. Their status can be something as mundane as, “I just ate breakfast,” and within five minutes 50 people will have liked their status.

The Jocks These are the folks that are constantly posting very excited comments about whatever ball game is on TV, in the language of the sport and referencing the team and/or player that everyone obviously should know.

The A/V Club If you need a video or photo fix, just check out their wall. Every viral video or meme that is trending is sure to be in their feed. These are also the folks that cannot resist taking pictures of their meal or every single sunrise/sunset.

The Theatre/Band Geek These are probably the people you get the most Facebook invites from. “Come see me in The Life and Times of Debbie Boone at the local community theatre!” or “My band is playing at the Up ‘n’ Chuck! Come on down!”

The Kids from Under the Bleachers They are just so in love and can’t stop displaying it, publicly, for all to see. Just… Ewwww!

The Class Clown Every status is an attempt at humor. Whether it’s about their kids, their boss, their pets or the funeral they just attended, they will find some way to make it funny.

The Nerd This the person you look up if your computer stopped working, thereby <gasp> making it impossible to post anything on Facebook. They are also the grammar police, the fact checkers, the urban myth de-bunkers and all-round social media buzzkills.

The Desperate to Fit In Type These are the ones that like everything you do on Facebook. Everything. Within seconds of posting it. They’d like it twice if they could.

The Debate Team This person must have the last word and will argue with you about anything. Whether it is gun control or the weather, they will always have an opinion that is different than yours. Oh, by the way, it’s the right one.

The Quiet Kid in the Corner In Facebook lingo, I call this person “The Lurker.” They never interact with you on Facebook but they know everything that is going on with your life based on what they gleaned from reading your Facebook page. They never comment on or like your posts but when they see you in person they bring up every detail of your life as if they had. Creepy.

The Rebel It’s all about the shock value. These are the ones that post photos of their open wounds, give you play by plays about their Grindr encounter or share every detail about their Brazilian wax. These are the people whose Facebook posts make you gasp or roll your eyes then run screaming from your computer with the “TMI! TMI! TMI!” falling from your lips.

The Party People Every single post involves alcohol or drugs. They are either planning a party, are on their way to a party, are at a party or are recovering from a party. (NOTE: Party can be used interchangeably with “bar,” “GNO,” “poker night,” etc.)

The God Squad People that can quote scripture from memory and use it in an effort to let you know how wrong your views on marriage equality, homosexuality, politics or religion are.

The Editor-in-Chief of the School Paper Facebook’s own town crier. Every circle of friends has one. Was there are a car accident in town? Did Kim Kardashian get exposed to Ebola? Have they found a cure for cancer? Did your third grade teacher die? Whenever something remotely newsworthy happens, this person is the first to share it. Even worse is the town crier of gloom and doom, the newsie who only shares bad news.

Have I missed any? What types of people do you see on Facebook that make you momentarily consider unfriending them? That is until you realize that you fall into one or more of those buckets yourself. Which one are you?

E is for Earl Grey: Blogging from A to Z Challenge

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I used to be a coffee drinker. I was never a die hard caffeine junkie and I’m not one to ask for a triple shot at Starbucks, although I do like an occasional espresso. I like the flavor and the smell of coffee. Recently, however, I find my body reacts adversely to strongly caffeinated coffee drinks. I am not a person who is offended by decaffeinated coffee drinks but when I fire up the laptop in the morning I do find I like a hot beverage that has a little pizzazz.

So now I’m a tea drinker. Earl Grey is a favorite of mine, it is still caffeinated but it doesn’t leave me jittery like the rocket fuel at Starbucks. Besides, and I think Dr. Sheldon Cooper would agree, being in the company of Captain Jean-Luc Picard is pretty nifty.

D is for Diabetes: Blogging from A to Z Challenge

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Two weeks before my 40th birthday I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. For the last six years I have been living with a chronic illness that, for the most part, goes undetected by the people I encounter in my day to day life. Only when I suddenly have a low blood sugar or have to calibrate my insulin pump are people fleetingly aware of what I live with every moment of every day.

T1PlayDate

Diabetes is one of the more stealth of the chronic diseases. Every seven seconds a person dies due to complications from diabetes. One out of every 12 people has diabetes and one of every two people with diabetes don’t even know they have it.

When I was diagnosed, I had very little knowledge about diabetes. As with any diagnosis, I am continually amazed at the things that people say:

How can you have diabetes? Nobody in your family has it! No. Nobody in my family has it, thank goodness. I guess I got lucky. Surprisingly, even doctors have said this to me.

BadKind

Do you have the good kind of diabetes or the bad kind of diabetes? Ummm… Any diabetes diagnosis is scary, whether it is Type 1 or Type 2. The difference is that Type 1 is insulin dependent and Type 2 is managed with oral medication. Both types of diabetes are better managed with close attention to diet and exercise. So are many other diseases.

Wow! I can’t believe you have diabetes, you aren’t fat! I’m not thin, I’m not fat. I’m diabetic. In fact, before I was diagnosed with diabetes, I was quite happy with the weight I lost. Little did I know it was because I was living with blood glucose in the 500+ range for quite some time.

SugarKid

You must’ve had a sweet tooth as a kid. Actually, no, I didn’t.

Well, at least it is a controllable disease. Yes, modern medicine has made diabetes a much more manageable disease. However, it cannot be cured. I will never go into remission. Also, it is a crazy expensive disease. Thankfully I have good insurance. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t. If I didn’t have insurance, I wouldn’t be able to afford my insulin pump supplies, which average $700/month. If I didn’t have insurance, I wouldn’t be able to afford insulin and test strips, which average $760/month. That is $1,460 a month for the rest of my life. Just to stay alive.

I could never do finger sticks and inject needles into myself! Yeah. I never thought I would have to do that either. It is amazing what you’ll do so that you don’t feel sick or end up in the hospital. Or worse.

DiabetesCannotEat

Should you be eating/drinking that? I can eat and drink anything you can. I just have to take insulin to cover it.

I read on the Internet that if you do X then the diabetes will go away. The number of cures and ways to regulate sugar levels is astounding. I am amazed that medical practitioners that devote their lives to helping people live with diabetes haven’t heard about how eating a pound of beans a day, adding cinnamon to everything or taking Vitamin B every day will cure diabetes!

These are just some of the things that I’ve heard since becoming a diabetic. As with any disease, questions or statements that seem irritating or uninformed are best answered with proper information and, even better, with a little humor.

C is for Challenge: Blogging from A to Z Challenge

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So this blogging challenge is, in and of itself, indeed a challenge. As I navigate my full time job, being a wife, a mother of three and a foster mom to a puppy, it is hard to carve out time in my schedule to write. This has and always will be a challenge. When you consider the fact that I am also a world class procrastinator, it is a recipe for an uphill climb that when the end of the day comes, I am oft too weary to take on.

I had intended to write about Camp Aranu’tiq, a camp for transgender and gender variant youth that my daughter will be attending this summer. However, that would be a long and meaningful post that unfortunately the Universe was not willing to assist me in writing. Yesterday afternoon, whilst doing the dishes, a wine glass shattered in my hand, shredding a couple fingers and necessitating stitches and splints for two fingers.

So, the challenge now isn’t so much the challenge itself anymore, the challenge now is typing and keeping the pain at a minimum.

I urge you to Google Camp Aranu’tiq. And I promise that once the stitches are out of my hand, I will dedicate some meaningful time to telling you all about it.

B is for Boycott: Blogging from A to Z Challenge

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I believe in equality for all people. I believe that every human being has the right to the pursuit and attainment of life, liberty and happiness, no matter their beliefs. This tenet is one I feel especially passionate about as it applies to the LGBT community. The recent conversation regarding Indiana’s RFRA law, which goes into effect in July, has sparked quite a few debates in my predominantly liberal social media feed.

Even Gov. Daniel Malloy, the governor of the state I live in, Connecticut, has spoken passionately about the law that Gov. Mike Pence signed into law last week. He made Connecticut the first state to ban state-funded travel to Indiana and urged other states to do the same. As a result, Kevin Ollie, the coach of the UConn men’s basketball team, will not be traveling to the Final Four in Indiana to show support for Malloy’s ban.

When Chik-fil-A, a company who has openly contributed to groups opposed to LGBT rights, announced they were coming to my hometown, I made the decision that I would not be patronizing their establishment. In a sense, I have boycotted their company, much as I have boycotted the Salvation Army for their anti-gay hiring practices.

As a human being, I support companies with similar views to my own and I give money to those that share my belief that love is love. I also have no issue withholding my hard earned spending dollars from companies who use their love of God and scripture as a foundation for hatred. In doing so, my boycott is a personal choice.

While I understand and support the intention behind the boycotting of travel to Indiana (or any of the other 19 states with RFRA laws, including my own), I can’t help but think of the people that live in those states, who are the targets of the discriminatory laws that are in or going into effect, and how a broad stroked boycott can affect them.

Discrimination, at its foundation, is an action based on personal belief. No matter the law, the onus is upon each of us to treat one another with love and respect. It is only when we love and respect each other, regardless of our race, creed or sexual orientation, that we can make a real difference in our lives and in the lives of others.

A is for Adoption: Blogging From A to Z Challenge

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When it comes to pets, I think it is a fairly safe assumption that most people fall into one of two camps: Camp Canine or Camp Feline. I come from a dog family. Only because there is picture evidence, I know that we did have a Siamese cat once when I was a toddler. After a scratching incident, the cat was banned from the house forever and any pets that passed muster with my father were dogs. Period. The end.

Thankfully, my husband is a dog person, so it stands to reason that our family is a Camp Canine family. He always had small dogs, we always had big dogs. We currently have a soon-to-be-nine-year-old Shih Tzu whom I adore. He is my fur baby. Most days he is enough for our wee little house that already provides a home to a family of five humans.

Over the summer, one of my daughters suddenly became obsessed with getting a new puppy. She would get books about dogs from the library. She would constantly ask to be taken to the puppy store. It even got to the point that when we asked her to do something, we would have to say, “Please, puppy,” instead of the standard, “Please.”

Enter Tails of Courage, one of our city’s local dog shelters. Unlike the other shelters in town, Tails of Courage allows children to volunteer with a responsible adult. So, my daughter and I spent a couple afternoons at the shelter, cleaning and walking the dogs. It seemed to suffice. Until the shelter rescued ten puppies from under a house in Virginia and they were looking for foster families.

That is when Chubs came into our lives.

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It has been almost nine years since we had a puppy in our house. It is like having a newborn. They need to be fed more often, they go to the bathroom more frequently, they need to be watched constantly. Yet this puppy has brought new life into our house and even the most resistant can’t turn down his sweet face.

We fostered Chubs for about a week and a half and then he was adopted. A few weeks later, while I was in the ER dealing with diabetes complications, the shelter called and explained that he was returned and asked if we could foster him again. My husband went to pick him up and that night I found myself sleeping on the couch with the puppy who had doubled in size since we said goodbye to him a few weeks earlier.

If you had asked me a year ago if I would be volunteering at a dog shelter, I would have questioned your sanity. I’m a busy woman with a full-time job, three children and some very time consuming avocations. If you asked me about volunteering today, I would try to sign you up. This experience has changed me. It has taught me the importance of doing good for our community and, more importantly, for the many rescue animals that are desperately in need of a forever family. While I did purchase our Shih Tzu from a puppy store, I now stand firmly in the belief that adoption is the only way to go. Make sure you visit your local shelter or online listings to find the dog that is right for you. Shelters do have puppies, shelters do have more than just one breed and shelters are doing amazing work. I can say that first hand.

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My attachment to Chubs has grown exponentially since the beginning of March. He is still with us, waiting for his forever family to find him. Sadly, he will grow to be more dog than our house or our set-in-his-ways Shih Tzu can handle. If you are interested in adopting him, please visit the Tails of Courage web site. I promise you, he will change your life.

Lopez’s Reverberation Delves Into Our Search for Connection

Aya Cash and Luke Macfarlane. Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson

Aya Cash and Luke Macfarlane.
Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson

One of the great ironies of this day and age is how, with the advent of omnipresent technology, we have become more connected than we have ever been yet our ability to have meaningful connections with one another has grown more and more challenging. This notion serves as the through line for Matthew Lopez’s latest play, Reverberation, now playing at The Hartford Stage.

Jonathan (Luke Macfarlane) is a greeting card illustrator who lives an isolated life in his apartment in Astoria, Queens. Content to be ordering his groceries from Fresh Direct as easily as he does his sexual encounters from Grindr, he avoids any interaction that could compromise the protective shell he has so meticulously constructed around himself. When the free-spirited Claire (Aya Cash) moves into the apartment upstairs, she begins to scratch at the surface of a deeply wounded man and, subsequently, the two become friends.

Reverberation is the third play that Lopez has premiered at Hartford Stage and completes what he has unofficially dubbed his “Agoraphobia Trilogy.” His previous plays include the widely-produced The Whipping Man and last year’s Somewhere. In all three plays, the principal characters have withdrawn from a world they perceive to be threating and dangerous. Through his artful script and beautifully constructed private moments, the audience gets an almost voyeuristic view into the Johnathan and Claire’s lives, as well as the smitten Wes (Carl Lundstedt), who Johnathan summoned via the geosocial networking app.

In this play, Lopez explores the intricacies of intimacy in relationships, whether they are sexual or platonic, straight or gay. Through the three characters in Reverberation, we see how past relationships and personal experience can influence new relationships and how they are perceived. For some, a relationship based on shared thoughts and feelings can be more profound than a physical one, while for others a physical relationship can serve as the catalyst for seeking a deeper connection.

As a society, we have grown dependent upon technology and the constant link it provides. While the constant connectivity keeps us in touch, it also alienates us from one another. Throughout the play, Johnathan, who lives in self-imposed alienation, is insistent upon maintaining tactile relationships. He prefers his books over a Kindle, a newspaper over a newscast and, with his personal boundaries put in place, finds physical connection by comforting a distressed friend or having sex with random strangers. His desire to gaze into someone’s eyes, to connect to a memory via music or to hold someone’s hand is something he can’t let go and it reverberates from his past into his present, sometimes with unfortunate results.

Lopez has an aptitude for writing dialogue that makes it easy to become drawn into the lives of the characters he creates. Despite some of the intensely dramatic revelations that occur throughout the play, Lopez is able to find the funny human moments that often coexist alongside tragedy. However, the monologues tend to go on and begin to feel preachy or as though Lopez is trying too hard to be profound. The greatest moments in the play are the simplistic and natural ones. Additionally, there are certain moments that come off more as a mechanism to get to the next scene or moment. The lengthy and dramatic scene at the end of Act Two is followed by what felt like a very rushed ending of the play.

Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson

Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson

Director Maxwell Williams does a fine job pulling nuanced yet powerful performances from all three actors. Macfarlane delivers a charismatic and layered performance as Johnathan. Cash’s Claire is whimsical and heartbreaking while Lundstedt as Johnathan’s hapless lover Wes is both charming and poignant.

Andromache Chalfant’s set design, a massive two-story construction with identical apartments atop one another, is splendid. The scrupulous attention to detail to the set dressing, from the stacks of books to the refrigerator magnets, is a production unto itself. Matthew Richards’ lighting design splendidly provides the proper tone and Tei Blow’s sound design contributes a solid soundscape for the production. Linda Cho’s costume design is contemporary and fun, especially for Claire, who “borrows” several of her pieces from her employer.

Reverberation is a captivating play about contemporary interpersonal relationships and how we maneuver the obstacles that we face when attempting to connect.


Performances continue through March 15. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday at 7:30pm. Friday and Saturday at 8:00pm. Saturday and Sunday at 2:00pm. For details and tickets, visit www.hartfordstage.org.

Nicky Silver’s The Lyons Not Quite A Roaring Comedy

Photo: Rich Pettibone

Photo: Rich Pettibone

There is something oddly disturbing about a dark comedy. The theatregoer is presented with a situation that is typically considered tragic but, instead, they find themselves laughing at things that would normally be considered inappropriate as comic fodder. Such is the case with Nicky Silver’s The Lyons, now playing at TheatreWorks New Milford.

Ben Lyons is hospitalized with terminal cancer and instead of finding warmth and comfort in being surrounded by his family, he is immersed in vitriol and selfishness. For the first fifteen minutes of the play, his wife Rita sits at his bedside perusing a magazine and openly offers up suggestions for the redesign of their living room after he passes, replacing the sofa that has become a “washed out shade of dashed hopes.” Spouting expletives, his newfound stress release, Ben has made it clear that he no longer cares – about anything. With a couple that clearly lacks compassion or empathy, it is no surprise that their children are equally self-centered.

The challenge with this particular dark comedy is that it is dialogue heavy with minimal opportunities for action. The setting, a hospital room, offers very little room for a director to create visual interest. With one principal character confined to a hospital bed, many of the comedic moments of the show rely strictly upon well-timed line delivery, which was inconsistent in this particular production. When the rapid-fire quips were flying, the comedy was readily accessible. When the delivery slowed, so did the pace of the show. The script is partly to blame, as Silver goes off on tangents that are either irrelevant to the situation or are longwinded.

The cast is made up of several familiar faces and they do an admirable job navigating the verbose script. Jody Bayer delivers a solid performance as matriarch Rita but lacks the edgy callousness the character requires. As Ben Lyons, Bill Hughes is adequately agitated with the horrible people he is forced to spend his last days with. Courtney Brooke Lauria, as the Lyons’ “recovering” alcoholic daughter Lisa, is erratic, appearing comfortable with comedy but less so with drama. Joe Russo as the snide Curtis was a highlight proving that he should spend more time on stage than in the director’s chair. James Hipp as the realtor Brian is amiable, propelling the plot toward its unexpected end with the Nurse subtly played by Elizabeth Young.

As usual, TheatreWorks has constructed a first class set with extreme attention to detail. It was nice to see them use the seldom-used turntable to create a completely different locale for the second act. The costume design seemed thought out in terms of color but certain details were missed. At one point, Rita compliments her daughter’s footwear, stating that the shoes made her feet look teeny tiny when, in fact, the character was wearing boots.

Director Matt Austin has assembled a sturdy cast and when the machine is humming, there are very funny moments. However, with a cast that is comprised of mostly unlikeable characters, it is hard to go along for the ride and laugh the whole way. This is a play that relies heavily on perfect chemistry that happens between a cast firing on all cylinders and an audience with an appreciation for dark humor. When those two elements synchronize there exists great potential for a fun night of theatre.


The Lyons continues through March 14 at TheatreWorks New Milford, 5 Brookside Avenue, New Milford. Tickets and additional information available at www.theatreworks.us.


Lin-Manuel Miranda Exuberantly Tells Hamilton’s Story

The cast of Hamilton at The Public Theater. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

One week before the highly anticipated musical Hamilton opened at The Public Theater, its creator and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, posted two telling things to his Twitter account. First, he referenced the fact that Sondheim’s work was not even mentioned in the original New York Times review of West Side Story. He then encouraged his followers, fondly dubbed Twitterico, not to post reviews because they might not be aware of who they are hurting by omission. In another tweet, he reminded us that when In The Heights opened on Broadway, Twitter was not a thing, further stating that his feed would be a review-free zone following the opening of his new musical and requested that he not be tagged in any reviews.

On opening night, he took to Facebook with a most insightful post about the process of writing a new musical: “You write for 6 years. You surround your work with people who are smarter than you & make it better. Then you get to say: Opening night.” He followed that that up with an extremely classy acknowledgement and thanks to all of the actors who helped him during the process with various readings, workshops and concerts. Creating a new musical takes a village and Lin-Manuel Miranda knows that.

Not writing a review of Hamilton, however, would be akin to witnessing a significant historical event and then not telling anyone about it. Not having the opportunity to thank the people involved in bringing this brilliant piece of theatre to life would be an injustice.


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Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Critics, audiences and musical theatre legends are all in agreement: Hamilton is a bona fide hit, a game changer. Undoubtedly, Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast and creative team of Hamilton are doing something at the Public Theater that will forever alter the landscape of the musical theatre genre and will likely be dubbed the next Great American Musical.

Adapted from Ron Chernow’s definitive biography of the founding father whose face graces the $10 bill, Hamilton chronicles the life of a scrappy and ambitious immigrant from the moment he arrives in New York City to his infamous demise at the hand of his friend and nemesis, Aaron Burr. In the titular role, Miranda is engaging and energetic, pulling the audience into his loving embrace and not letting go until the last Fresnel has dimmed.

As Hamilton’s comrades, each tackling dual roles, Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan and Anthony Ramos banter with Miranda’s Hamilton with perfect comic timing. Diggs’ Thomas Jefferson is boisterous and larger than life, providing the perfect foil for the epic rap battles that ensue in Act II. As Alexander’s wife, Eliza Hamilton, Phillipa Soo is pristine and compassionate, with a voice to match. Renée Elise Goldsberry brings Eliza’s older sister Angelica to heartbreaking life as we witness her struggle between the unrequited love for her sister’s husband and her steadfast devotion to her sibling. Christopher Jackson’s George Washington is dashing and dignified, in stark contrast to the simmering malice Leslie Odom, Jr. brings to Aaron Burr. Bryan d’Arcy James’ foppish King George infuses perfectly timed humor throughout the musical and he is a company member that will certainly be missed when he departs to star in Broadway’s Something Rotten!, which begins previews on March 23rd.

Hamilton reunites Miranda with the creative team of the Tony Award-winning In The Heights: director Thomas Kail, music director/orchestrator Alex Lacamoire and choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler. This, however, is a reunion of class superlatives who have only gotten better with age. The assemblage of actors, musicians and dancers united under Kail’s cohesive direction tell a moving and inspiring story that is visually stunning. Navigating the complex terrain of rap, hip-hop, indie pop, jazz and R&B, Lacamoire provides a lush and seamless musical tapestry. Blankenbuehler’s intricate choreography keeps the cast in constant motion and is positively thrilling and, at times, breathtaking. The moment that inevitable shot leaves the barrel of the gun all production elements are perfectly synchronized to create a truly striking moment of theatre.

The rustic set design by David Korins serves as the perfect sandbox for these players to play in and it is beautifully and warmly lit by the candlelit glow of Howell Binkley’s lighting design. Paul Tazewell’s costume design is largely grounded in historical style with a touch of urban flair.

Hamilton, in many ways, like the city that serves as its backdrop, is a melting pot. The multiracial cast, in a time with an African American in the highest office, projects a modern view on a time that is, in many ways, not unlike our own. Musically, the references are bountiful, paying homage to Gilbert & Sullivan one moment and in the next tipping a hat to Notorious B.I.G. Structurally, Miranda has pulled out all the stops, providing the audiences with big ensemble numbers, tearful moments followed by humorous ones and infusing the entire piece with just the right amount of dramatic tension.

Certainly Hamilton is not the first musical to focus on history through a contemporary lens. Assassins and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, and to some degree 1776, have all looked at historical figures and turned them into modern musicals. So what makes Hamilton different? Alexander Hamilton made his way into history with words. His gift of language got him into college, it gained him favor with George Washington, it helped him through our nation’s first sex scandal and it made possible his drafting of the Federalist Papers and our nation’s economic policy, thereby landing him the role of the first Secretary of the Treasury. Not unlike Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda has made his way into musical theatre through his mastery of language. While his heart is rooted in the telling of a compelling story, his brain brilliantly weaves the spoken word into awe-inspiring art. Emblazoned across the Playbill are lyrics from the show: “Who lives? Who dies? Who tells your story?” How fortunate for audiences that Lin-Manuel chose to tell Alexander Hamilton’s story. We should all be so lucky to be immortalized in such a grand and artistic fashion.

If you have a ticket to Hamilton’s Off-Broadway run, you hold in your hands, without exaggeration, the hottest ticket in town. With a sold-out run that has extended twice, a Broadway transfer is imminent. Musical theatre enthusiasts are paying top dollar for tickets to Hamilton or are entering the daily “Hamilton for a Hamilton” lottery with 2,000+ other hopefuls. Yes, the announcement of its arrival on the Great White Way is eagerly anticipated but this baby has just been born. Let’s give it time to enjoy its first days and all the adoration, for it’s only a matter of time before it leaves the nest to enjoy a long, healthy life uptown.