When a play is about a boy raised as a girl, one wonders how that subject is addressed. It would not be a stretch to assume that such a production would explore how a boy adapted to becoming a girl and went on to live life that way. But a new play from Keen Company titled “Boy” provides a interesting twist in this plot line. It centers on the nature versus nurture line of the thinking. In other words, do we develop into adults based on the gender we were born into or can another way of being raised changed that. And even more surprisingly, it is in many ways a very old fashioned style love story nestled inside of a very current topic that was based on a true story. In addition to the uniqueness of the plot, audiences will enjoy seeing how the set provides easy identification of where the story is at as well as strong acting from the cast.
Written by Anna Ziegler and directed by Linsey Firman, “Boy” begins in the 1960s when a set of twin baby boys go for circumcisions. One goes fine but the other one gets badly botched. This unfortunate accident leads the boy’s parents to speak with a well-intentioned doctor who convinces them to raise the one twin as a girl. Seeing no other way to handle the problem, they agree to this. The play rotates between current day and sessions with the doctor and the “girl” as they explore what he encountering in his life. However, at some point, the “girl” realizes that he cannot live his life as a girl and decides to live as boy who has now become a young man. Along the way, he meets a young lady to whom he is attracted and the story of what they experience becomes a critical part of the current day.
Although it might sound confusing, this play has adopted a very simplistic set which makes it easy to follow. The scenes where the boy being raised as a girl meeting with the doctor still use the same actor, Bobby Steggert, who plays the boy throughout the show. However, the use of children’s settings and the flashing of the year on the back wall of the set keep it easy to follow. The same format is provided for the current day scenes which range from the 1980’s to early 1990’s where the boy is in an adult setting. This ability to easily focus on when the play’s action is taking place allows viewers to focus on the struggle the boy has in determining how much nature plays in who we become sexually and as an adult. And that point is made very clear as a very satisfying ending is given.
A strong cast provides the right tone for this controversial topic. Casting includes the following actors:
- Bobby Steggert as the boy. His performance is one of the main reasons this play succeeds as well as it does. His portrayal of the boy leaves no doubt about the conflict the boy is experiencing both as a child and an adult. His acting gives the audience the signs needed to assess how the story will go; but still there are other surprises in story.
- The surprises in story are because of his love interest, Jenny, who is played by Rebecca Rittenhouse. Her portrayal of Jenny shows a character who is lost in her own life. Her meeting with the boy, who as an adult male goes by the name of Adam, allows her to seek out a new direction for herself.
- Paul Niebanck plays Dr. Wendell Barnes who works as a psychologist with the young boy trying to help him adapt to life as a girl. His dedication to his work and his patient are unquestionable. His fondness and concern for the boy are clear to see as well.
- Heidi Armbruster plays Trudy Turner who is the mother of the boy. Her concerns for how her son will live his life not only turn the plot but also the hearts of those watching.
- Ted Koch plays Doug Turner, the boy’s father. He is quiet as first because his wife, Trudy, appears to dominate the process taking place. However, his scene with Adam in the adult portion of the boy’s life more than make up for any quietness prior to that. He allows the audience to see a father at his finest moment.
“Boy” will run a limited engagement now through April 10, 2016 only at the Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row, 410 West 44th Street in Manhattan. The performance runs about 90 minutes with no intermission. For tickets and more information, go to the Keen Company website..