Do you know what “genderqueer” means? Completely, vaguely or not at all? You can look it up if you want. But honestly, it’s a rhetorical question, because whether you know what it means or not, the answer doesn’t matter. All that matters is that when it comes to understanding people who are different from ourselves, we must choose love, compassion, and acceptance over fear, ignorance, hatred and even that intolerable word ‘tolerance’.
This, at least, is the final message delivered by Trisha Lee, a middle-aged Christian widow living in the fictitious conservative town of Sparkton, Texas, and the sole character in Out of the Box Theatrics’ production of The Pink Unicorn by Elise Forier Edie.
Trisha didn’t arrive at this way of thinking immediately. When she steps up out of the audience and onto the intimate stage, unassuming in her nondescript sweater, clutching her purse for dear life and nervously taking her glasses on and off, she begins to tell us the story of when her daughter Jolene first announced she identified as genderqueer; in the space of 90 minutes, Trisha reasons out her confusion and bravely reaches acceptance, without the need or comfort of conclusion.
Jolene, or Jo as she, er, they, have announced their name is now to be, dresses all in black, wears her hair short, has a pet tarantula named “Beetlejuice” and has her vagina intact. What labels shall be applied to her….“goth girl?”….“rebellious teenager?” Labels are simple, but people are not, and it is through Trisha’s musings that we slowly begin to see how even the most tightly-closed minds can open when they let go and let love.
Alice Ripley (Best Actress Tony Award winner for Next to Normal) is, in a word, astounding. Her Trisha is brimming with curiosity, honesty, humor and grace; she is inspiring to watch and simply amazing.
Edie’s characterization of Trisha is delicate and poignant, funny and sincere; her illuminating script is sheer writing perfection.
The technical design by Frank Hartley and costume design by Hunter Dowell support this production with impeccable simplicity.
Ripley and Edie together, with skillful direction and staging by Amy Jones, create this one woman’s story with such life, hope and goodness, that when Ripley finally walks out through the house, hand outstretched and asking for people to join her, I reach for it.
This is my hand, here. Will you walk with me? I ain’t gonna lead. I ain’t gonna follow. Truth is, I don’t even know where we’re going. But I’m gonna keep my heart open and I’d ask you to do the same. And I think if we do that, if we all really do that, we will get somewhere good.
Pure humanity, pure theater magic.
The Pink Unicorn (through May 25, 2019)
Out of the Box Theatrics
Episcopal Actors’ Guild at The Church of the Transfiguration (aka “The Little Church Around the Corner”), 1 East 29th Street, between Madison and 5th Avenues, in Manhattan
For tickets call 866-811-4111 or visit https://www.ootbtheatrics.com/the-pink-unicorn
Running time: 90 minutes without an intermission