Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Must See: The Interlopers, a play by Gary Lennon [Los Angeles]

I went to see this The Interlopers for two reasons:
Reason 1. Jim Fall, the director who won my heart with 1999’s Fine Line highest- grossing film Trick, with Tori Spelling, Christian Campbell & J.P Pitoc, and
Reason 2. Darryl Stephens, who won my heart in as the title role in Noah’s Arc. But you, dear reader, have many more reasons to see this play. Let me break them down for you: Reason 3. The subject matter: In a waiting room, two pre-operative transgenders meet. While Michelle, who is still referred to as Michael by her Dad, states very clearly to Lou, whose own father still call her Louisa that post-op she will be into women, Lou puts on the charm and a friendship blossoms.

The Interlopers is a Romeo and Juliet story set in the transgender world of Los Angeles. Through the theme of identity, the play explores a group of unique misfits who call themselves family, and who are brave enough to challenge the obstacle course called life. Examining these singular and special people, the play follows them on their journeys to being their whole and authentic selves.

While at first one would think it would be hard to relate to a transgender person, Gary Lennon, the writer speaks in absolute truths, with universal messages that apply to most of us. The gay boy at school, the fat/tall/skinny kid inside us, but most importantly it explores the one issue of unconditional love from a parent. How would you react if your son was telling you he was in fact your daughter? Would you get stuck in your own prejudice or would you transcend it and accept her? What if you were part of the Latino or Black culture, and all your life gendered roles were taught to you with the strictest of rules?

    L to R:  Darryl Stephens, Trevor Peterson.

The play manages to stay honest at every corner. It escapes the trap of being preachy (an easy and forgivable trap to fall into when dealing with such a subject matter) and it’s entertaining as hell. You will laugh. Which brings me to Victoria, an over the top pre-op played by Darryl Stephens. Victoria drinks a bit too much, speaks her mind and has yet to meet a boy she doesn’t want to sleep with: She’s a pre-op version of half your friends (you know who they are!) Victoria has the best lines and a tremendous stage presence. In the performance I saw, Ralph Cole, Jr. (Stephens’ understudy) played the part, and did Stephens proud. It’s hard to play and over-the-top personality, while being real and Cole (as well as Stephens I am sure) managed to walk that line perfectly. This brings me to reason 4: The actors. (All of them)

Reason 5: Diarra Kilpatrick. I had not read the Playbill prior to the play so when Lou came on stage, as a guy, it took me a minute to realize Lou was played by a girl. Kilpatrick is nothing short of astonishing in this role, she brings so many dimensions to her character that I couldn’t list them all here. But one thing is for sure, she is uber talented. Doing my homework later on, I was only half surprised to discover that in addition to theatre, Diarra is a series regular on an MTV improv series, that she won a NAACP award for Best Playwright for her one woman show and that she has a popular online column called The Adventures of Blacktress. There is little more thrilling than discovering someone that resonates with you on many levels. I was fortunate to meet Kilpatrick after the show and her spirit and presence is so strong, it’s only a matter of time until she’s a household name.

While Kilpatrick was my own aha moment, the rest of the cast was brilliant too. Trevor Peterson, who plays the lead opposite Kilpatrick, had an authenticity that reminded me of my own transgendered acquaintances. He made the audience fall in love with Michelle thanks to the characters’ good heart and fragile softness.
R.D. Call, who plays Ed, Michelle’s dad will has the hard task of making you look at things the way (sadly) most parents would. While at first it would seem easy to vilify him, his words rang true with love and concern and he plays the part with a force to reckon with.

   L to R: Diarra Kilpatrick, Paul Elia 

The rest of the cast, Tara Karsian, Clifford Morts, Leandro Cano and the breath of fresh air that is Paul Elia make this play a welcome addition to our repertoire of great plays to talk about. The direction by Jim Fall was flawless, taking us on a ride smoothly and expertly. So grab a friend and go see the play, I have a strong suspicion (after a glowing review by the L.A. times) that this is not the last we will see of this play. Then find me on Facebook so you can thank me.

The Interlopers is playing at the Bootleg Theater (2220 Beverly Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90057) through July 17, 2011 (now extended to July 24)
Get your tickets here (up to 50% off)

Words: Fabrice Tasendo
Photos: Ashley West Leonard