Ex­plo­ration of sex­ual iden­tity makes com­pelling theater

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - LOCAL - By John Berger jberger@starad­ver­tiser.com

It’s a 20th-cen­tury hor­ror story: The par­ents of in­fant twin boys are told that their sons must be cir­cum­cised im­me­di­ately — to ad­dress a med­i­cal emer­gency rather than for the usual re­li­gious or cul­tural rea­sons.

The first cir­cum­ci­sion is han­dled so badly that the child’s pe­nis is mu­ti­lated and must be re­moved en­tirely. The sec­ond child’s cir­cum­ci­sion is post­poned; be­fore it can be resched­uled, the emer­gency re­solves it­self. The par­ents are hor­ri­fied. Then a doc­tor who be­lieves that gen­der iden­tity is de­ter­mined by so­cial­iza­tion rather than anatomy and bi­ol­ogy ad­vises them that the best course of ac­tion is to raise the penis­less boy as if he had been born fe­male. So­cial­ize the child as a girl, do a lit­tle sex re­as­sign­ment surgery now and then com­plete the phys­i­cal makeover when the child — re­named Sa­man­tha — be­comes a teenager.

And if Sa­man­tha’s par­ents al­low the doc­tor to use the twins as case stud­ies in a re­search project, he and his hos­pi­tal will pay for ev­ery­thing.

Sa­man­tha grows up un­aware of what was done to her but with a very strong feel­ing that some­thing isn’t right. Wel­come to The Ac­tors’ Group pro­duc­tion of “Boy.”

The chal­leng­ing but com­pelling drama is play­wright Anna Ziegler’s fic­tional take on the real-life tragedy doc­u­mented 17 years ago by John Co­lap­into in a book ti­tled “As Na­ture Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl.”

Zei­gler’s play re­ceived

good re­views when it ran off-Broad­way early last year. TAG pre­mieres it in Hawaii as ex­cel­lent thought-pro­vok­ing adult en­ter­tain­ment. Ran­dall Gal­ius gives an en­gag­ing, mul­ti­lay­ered per­for­mance as he al­ter­nates be­tween play­ing Sa­man­tha as a child and pre­teen, and Adam, a man in his early 20s. Jaime Brad­ner makes her TAG de­but a mem­o­rable one with her charm­ing por­trayal of a young woman who finds Adam odd but ap­peal­ing — even though he isn’t push­ing her to have sex with him. Ja­son Kanda has ex­celled for years at play­ing strange and bizarre char­ac­ters. Here he plays a doc­tor who takes a very per­sonal in­ter­est in the “girl” he is train­ing. It isn’t nec­es­sary to know the facts laid out in Co­lap­into’s book to find the doc­tor creepy and his mo­tives sus­pect, but Kanda also makes the man seem seem tragic and even vul­ner­a­ble. Hawaii stage vet­er­ans Melinda Maltby Purdy and Dann Seki are spot on as Sa­man­tha’s be­wil­dered but well-mean­ing par­ents. Seki is such a pro that he gets a laugh in one scene with­out say­ing a word — the ex­pres­sion on his face is enough. >> “Boy,” by Anna Ziegler; di­rected by Jim K. Aina; set de­sign by Andy Al­varado; cos­tumes by Chris Valles; light­ing by Thomas Tochiki; sound by Ka­hana Ho. Run­ning time: 1 hour 36 min­utes. >> With: Jaime Brad­ner (Jenny), Ran­dall Gal­ius (Adam/Sa­man­tha), Ja­son Kanda (Dr. Wen­dell Barnes), Melinda Maltby Purdy (Trudy) and Dann Seki (Doug)

COUR­TESY THE AC­TORS’ GROUP

Ran­dall Gal­ius plays a boy raised as a girl in The Ac­tors’ Group pro­duc­tion of “Boy.”

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