The one wrench in their plans starts to unfold during an innocent game of “Would You Still Love Me If” and alludes to something hidden in the confines of this relationship. Soon after, the audience learns the truth and the struggle Dayna has faced all her life as she visits no-nonsense Dr. Gerard (Roya Shanks). Despite the long journey ahead in transitioning to living as a male, Dayna is confident in her relationship with Addison and the love they have for each other, even though she hasn’t shared the whole truth with her yet. Dayna seeks support and understanding from mother Victoria (Kathleen Turner) who wasn’t able to give her daughter what she truly needed while she was growing up, but is in her corner now.
Actress Gomez tackles the issue of transgender identity in a way that is honest and moving. This production is extremely timely as our society is learning more about what it means to be transgender and how it affects relationships and families, with the most recent example of Caitlyn Jenner. Dayna gives herself permission to be vulnerable and admit that she’s scared about the process, but never wavers in her decision and true feelings. Girlfriend Addison has trouble accepting the news (as anyone would) and tries to convince Dayna to stay exactly the way she is.
In this type of situation, it’s so hard to pass judgment, because I can guarantee that everyone in the audience wouldn’t know how he or she would react in Addison’s shoes. We may think we know and love people, but when their true selves come out, who’s to say what determines our ability to love people for who they really are – when that person is a total stranger to us. It is difficult to imagine, but ultimately the best ending is for the person to be who he or she truly is and live an authentic life – whether their partner sticks around or not. Their body may be different, but their soul is finally set free and will always be the same.
Turner, who also serves as director, is witty, charming, insightful and just terrific as Victoria in this production. Although she knew that Dayna longed to be a boy since childhood, she wasn’t able to provide the support she needed growing up, but works to be the rock as Daniel begins his new life. The bond between mother and child is beautiful and proves that a mother’s only desire is for her child to be happy.
The costume design by Tristan Raines relies on casual and comfortable attire appropriate for the particular setting, such as jeans and t-shirts when painting and a tailored suit or blazer when in a professional atmosphere. Brian Prather lends his talents as scenic designer and creates a set that is simple, containing only a few props such as a bedroom set or park bench, to keep the focus on the storyline. Zach Blane’s lighting design matches the tone of the scenes, with lights dimming and brightening as dramatic moments came to pass.
This brave production does not sugarcoat the reality of transgender identity and the choices made during one’s lifetime. It paints an emotional and trying picture of an individual struggling to come to terms with her/himself while keeping personal relationships intact. There’s no magic formula or guarantee, just a promise to be authentic and with that, comes the hope that those who truly love you will continue to do so no matter what.
Would You Still Love Me If… (through October 26, 2015)
New World Stages, 340 W 50th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 800-447-7400 or 212-239-6200 or visit http://www.telecharge.com
Running time: 90 minutes without an intermission