Review: Boy (TimeLine Theatre)

| January 24, 2018

Stef Tovar and Theo Germaine star as Doug Turner and Adam in Boy at TimeLine Theatre            



Written by Anna Ziegler  
TimeLine Theatre, 615 W. Wellington (map)
thru Mar 18  |  tix: $40-$54  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   


Powerful and timely


Emily Marso, Theo Germaine and Mechelle Moe star as Jenny, Adam and Trudy Turner in Boy, TimeLine Theatre

TimeLine Theatre Company presents

Review by Lauren Whalen

Playwright Anna Ziegler began Boy as a direct homage to David Reimer, a young man with a sad beginning and a tragic end. In 1967, 18-month-old David was left with damaged genitals due to a circumcision accident. Desperate, his parents turned to Dr. John Money, who spearheaded the Gender Identity Clinic at Johns Hopkins University, and who suggested that David’s parents raise him as a girl while continuing to raise his twin brother Emily Marso and Theo Germaine star as Jenny and Adam in Boy, TimeLine Theatreas a boy. Though David eventually lived as a cisgender man, both he and his twin brother were plagued by alleged emotional and sexual abuse by Dr. Money, and both committed suicide young. Though the final production is more of a rumination, with a hopeful ending, Boy is a powerful and timely play, and TimeLine Theatre’s stellar production raises both questions and optimism about the state of gender in modern society.

Boy’s protagonist, Adam (Theo Germaine), shares a lot with David Reimer: Adam is a twin who was raised as a girl and began living as a man upon discovering his secret as a teenager. The play alternates between “present” day 1990, when Adam begins a relationship with scrappy single mom Jenny (Emily Marso), and throughout the past, during Adam’s yearly appointments with Dr. Wendell Barnes (David Parkes). Adam grows up as Samantha, told he is a little girl but never quite believing it, and his relationship with Dr. Barnes is fraught with tempestuous questioning, but also with parent-child love on both ends. As Adam struggles to move forward, he wonders if he can leave Samantha behind for good.

As always, TimeLine does an impeccable job with dramaturgy, with interviews, program notes and articles curated by Josephine Kearns that help the audience understand the context of the play. Boy is a beautiful script but an incredibly difficult one, requiring utmost care in execution, and everyone involved (an admirably diverse group of cis, trans and nonbinary individuals) ensure that everything from acting to lobby display is thoughtful and true. Lighting designer Jared Gooding illuminates trinkets of Adam’s childhood as Samantha, including a significant Star Wars poster, which scenic designer Arnel Sancianco places in shelves that reach high, a museum of troubled identity. Karli Blalock’s sound design incorporates music of four decades, and really, what’s more evocative than pop? Tasked with a challenging role, intimacy designer Charlie Baker comes through, handling Adam and Jenny’s burgeoning physical relationship with incredible sensitivity.

Mechelle Moe, Stef Tovar and David Parkes star in Boy, TimeLine TheatreMechelle Moe and Stef Tovar star as Trudy and Doug Turner in Boy, TimeLine Theatre David Parkes and Theo Germaine star as Dr. Wendell Barnes and Adam in Boy at TimeLine TheatreStef Tovar and Theo Germaine star as Doug Turner and Adam in Boy, TimeLine Theatre

Director Damon Kiely, whose impeccable staging and tight pacing retains the script’s power, has assembled a flawless ensemble. Stef Tovar is perfect as Adam’s stoic yet understanding father, and Mechelle Moe as his hand-wringing mother – both nice people who cherish their children and will do the very best they can in an incomparably difficult situation. Parkes’ Dr. Barnes has a solid character arc of his own, and the actor brings incredible nuance to a man out for prestige and career growth, and perhaps deeper meaning in his own life. The character of Jenny could have been shrill and intolerable in the hands of a lesser actress, but Emily Marso gives the character believable frustration and great sympathy. As Adam, the central character, Germaine is unrepentant in their honesty and devotion. Their Adam is someone the audience is with from beginning to end. Boy is essential viewing for Chicago audiences in 2018, when the face of gender is changing, and society will be challenged, but better for it.

Rating: ★★★½

Boy continues through March 18th at TimeLine Theatre, 615 W. Wellington (map), with performances Wednesdays & Thursdays 7:30pm, Fridays 8pm, Saturdays 4pm & 8pm, Sundays 2pm.  Tickets are $40-$54, and are available by phone (773-281-8463) or online through their website (check for availability of half-price tickets). More info at time: 90 minutes, no intermission)

Emily Marso and Theo Germaine star as Jenny and Adam in Boy at TimeLine TheatreDavid Parkes and Theo Germaine star as Dr. Wendell Barnes and Adam in Boy, TimeLine Theatre

Photos by Lara Goetsch 




Stef Tovar (Doug), Theo Germaine (Adam Turner), Emily Marso (Jenny), Mechelle Moe (Trudy), David Parkes (Dr. Wendell Barnes)

Understudies: Charlie Baker (Adam Turner), Aida Delaz (Jenny Lafferty), Billy Minshall (Doug Turner, Dr. Wendell Barnes), Laura Berner Taylor (Trudy Turner).

behind the scenes

Damon Kiely (director), Arnel Sancianco (scenic design), Samantha Jones (costume design), Jared Gooding (lighting design), Karli Blalock (sound design), Archer Curry (properties design), Charlie Baker (intimacy design), Avi Roque (assistant director), Molly Weaver (production assistant), K. Rodriguez, Jireh L. Drake (lobby artists), Josephine Kearns (dramaturg, gender identity consultant), Luci Kersting (stage manager), Slick Jorgensen (asst. lighting design), Anna Martin (wardrobe supervisor), Johnnie Schleyer (technical director), Steph Charaska (scenic change artist), Emily Arnold (costume shop supervisor), Neal Javenkoski (master electrician), Andy Kloubec (asst. master electrician), Benjamin Zeman (audio engineer), Anne Arezina, Eric Backus, Billy Borst, Arianna Brown, Nicholas Case, Tom Chandler, Jessica Doyle, Cory Drewry, Brian Elston, Emily Graver, Emily Hartig, Keirra Jacobs, Andy Kauff, Steve Labedz, Aaron Lorenz, Matt McMullen, David Moreland, William Murphy, Lauren Nichols, Daniel Parsons, Mary Reischmann, Shawn Rodriguez, Jacob Snodgrass, Martha Templeton (technical crew), Lara Goetsch (photos)

Emily Marso and Theo Germaine star as Jenny and Adam in Boy at TimeLine Theatre 2Stef Tovar and Theo Germaine star as Doug Turner and Adam in Boy at TimeLine Theatre


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Category: 2018 Reviews, Lauren Emily Whalen, TimeLine Theatre

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