The tagline for Larry E. Blossom’s latest Capital Fringe offering, Just Like A Woman, is “Will Trans Trump Fear in These Troubled Times?” Unfortunately, neither the issues of transphobia nor the effects that Trump’s election has had on America are examined in this convoluted production by Out-Side the Box Theatre. Instead, the underbaked play leans on clichés and caricatures, rendering its intended message incoherent at best.
Blossom, in addition to being a playwright and director, is a psychotherapist, and was inspired to write the play after he noticed an uptick in patients experiencing fear, anxiety, and sadness in the wake of the election. And while I do believe that Blossom’s heart is in the right place, Just Like A Woman doesn’t do justice to the very real issues with which it attempts to grapple.
I was already wary as I entered Gallaudet University’s Elstad Auditorium, having discovered during my usual pre-show research that in addition to be written by a cisgender man, the character of Amy (Joseph McCaughtry) is portrayed by one as well. On top of that, there were no attempts that I could find to explain or acknowledge this in the program, marketing materials, or interviews conducted in the lead up to the festival. This shouldn’t need to be said in 2017 in a city like DC, but: There is no excuse for having a cisgender actor portraying a transgender character when there are transgender and non-binary individuals lacking in opportunities to play them.
Despite all that, I wanted to give Just Like A Woman a chance. It’s divided into four parts: a prologue and three acts—all of which feel like they were written separately and stitched together by adding in references to politically significant moments (Trump earning the Republican nomination, Hillary conceding, Inauguration Day, etc.). Unfortunately, these nods to the election are the only real attempt to relate the events of the play to the current political situation in America.
Just Like a Woman
closes July 22, 2017
The list of topics that do get touched on in 90 minutes is long: pedophilia, drug addiction, suicide, immigration, and incarceration, among others. The play is both too long, and not nearly long enough to address these heavy issues with any nuance or depth.
The actors give it their best shot (Jamie Crown as Granna Mimsy shows some real talent), but the characters they’re given limit them. For instance, Amy’s mother (Heather Godwin) is somehow both “Kellyanne Conway on steroids” and a bra-burning feminist who emasculated her husband right into an affair with his “sugie woogie,” Adalia (Celia de la Vega)—the only Latinx character in the play, who in addition to having a sugar daddy is an undocumented immigrant who’s on the run from a cartel. Meanwhile, Granna Mimsy, whose stroke-induced aphasia is played for laughs, is “everything a woman should be” because she’s gentle and nurturing. Instead of interrogating stereotypes and rigid gender roles, Blossom’s characters serve only to reinforce them in unoriginal ways.
I went back and forth about how to end this review, and this is what felt the most right:
Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow
Chyna Doll Dupree
Kendra Marie Adams
Ava Le’Ray Barrin
These are the names of the 15 members of the transgender community who have been murdered in the United States in 2017. So far. If you’re truly interested in using your time and money to understand the struggle for safety and respect that transgender Americans face, I’d recommend supporting organizations like the Trans Women of Color Collective and the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Just Like A Woman by Larry E. Blossom. Directed by: Larry E. Blossom and Suzanne Knapik. Featuring: Jaime Crowne, Heather Godwin, Konstantine James, Dana Maas, Joseph McCaughtry, Yvonne Paretsky, Celia de la Vega, and Bill Willburn. Lighting design: Elliot Lanes. Sound design: Elliot Lanes. Produced by Out-Side the Box Theatre. Reviewed by John Bavoso.