Review by Constance Rodgers
12 October 2015
There is a story going around that Lisa Kron, author of the Tony winning musical, Fun Home, said that it will be really OK to put lesbians on stage when mediocre plays about lesbians are put up. Well, it’s OK to put lesbians on stage. Would You Still Love Me If… written by John S. Anastasi and directed by Kathleen Turner, is a mediocre play about a very important subject, and involves at least two lesbians, although some will say three.
Would You Still Love Me If… though not a deeply moving play contributes in a safe and respectful format to the discussion we have all been having lately of transgender vs. sexuality. The play beautifully brings up issues such as: do we love a person solely for their soul, does one’s soul change if their gender changes, and can one really change their gender, especially after an original, naturally caused puberty?
The play is sparsely designed and staged – no ostentation. The two women lovers, Danya, (Sofia Jean Gomez) and Addison, (Rebecca Brooksher) are real people, and thankfully not stereotypes of lesbians. During the opening scene, which begins at the conclusion of a love making session, there is a potential for embarrassed audience laughter, however the scene is played so honestly and sincerely by both Gomez and Brooksher that we know this is not something to laugh about. Addison is taking Danya’s fascination with strap-on dildos quite seriously, and tells Danya she was not turned on by being taken to, “pound town.” Addison finds penises domineering and controlling. Danya says she is throwing them away, but she secretly saves a few.
Maybe Danya wants to role play, sometimes, we think. Addison does not – ever. But this is not a play about two lesbians being sexually incompatible. Danya feels she is male and wants to transition. She has not told Addison, though they have been together for two years. What Addison wants is to raise a child, giving the baby the gift of two mothers. Addison also has a secret. She has not told Danya that she has started the adoption process for a newborn baby girl, due in three months. Later, when Danya’s mother, Victoria, (played with strength and tenderness by Kathleen Turner) expresses concern that Danya’s beginning the transition process will effect the couple’s ability to adopt, Danya says both, “a baby is not my immediate priority” and “I want to be a father to my daughter.”
The play brings up much that many are arguing vehemently about in real life, and I am glad it has. Can a woman who loves another woman, who is a lesbian, truly expect for her lover to remain in relationship with her if she becomes a man? And once transitioned to male does this new man think he will feel the same about their relationship? Will he still want to be with a lesbian? The lesbian surgeon, Dr. Gerard (played fiercely and provocatively by Roya Shanks) is the “Michelangelo” of female to male bottom surgery and is the only doctor Danya wants for her work. When Dr. Gerard questions Danya regarding how she expects this to affect Addison, Danya can only imagine that Addison will still love her if… But Dr. Gerard cautions, from personal experience, “As you gain your true identity, she will lose hers. If she is strongly identified as a lesbian, her entire identity will be eradicated. She will become more invisible as you become more of a visible man.” Danya, completely consumed with her own search and journey to who she feels is her true self, is incapable of understanding that her becoming a man deeply affects both her mother and her lover. Victoria and Addison, even Dr. Gerard, all say, “You are going to die.”, meaning, Danya will no longer be there for them, will no longer be in their lives. Danya does not agree. She says he will be the same person she always was.
These are very complicated, confusing, scary, infuriating topics. Would You Still Love Me If..., though a soap opera, dares to bring-up the topic of transgender vs. sexuality, and lets us think about it and does not tie everything about it into a pretty bow. Love is not enough, and can be deeply affected by the body we want to make love with, and who we want the world to see us sharing our life with. When Addison visits Dr. Gerard’s office to learn what will happen to Danya as she transitions Dr. Gerard reveals that her female lover, that she, like Addison, thought was a lesbian, also transitioned, Dr. Gerard explains, “I did everything I could to make it work, but he betrayed me with a heterosexual woman. He said he needed his life to make sense, and that meant being with a woman who truly loved men, not a lesbian who just loved him. The “would you still love me if” game – is no joke.
"That Ms. Turner keeps the production from teetering into camp is an achievement in itself, but that danger may be what makes the show so nervous about humor. It never finds its tone. Yet Ms. Turner, who last month replaced the original director, Nona Gerard, has no trouble melding comedy and pain in her own very smart performance."
Laura Collins-Hughes for New York Times
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