Thursday, October 27, 2011

I Felt Miles Away at "Southern Comfort"

An eclectic group of theatergoers assembled on the 5th floor of a commercial building on west 18th street. One audience wore bed slippers; another walked in carrying a salad; others hunted for general admission seats since a third of the theater was reserved (most likely due to favorable reviews). As I took in the set which was quite large given the size of the theater, I began to feel miles away. And when Southern Comfort, a musical based on a 2000 documentary about a group of transgenders living in rural Georgia, began, I was truly transported.

The patriarch of the Southern Comfort clan is Robert, a partially transitioned female to male. According to Robert, gender is what is in your mind and heart not what is between your legs and partial transitions are necessary only for security reasons. Ironically, Robert is dying from ovarian cancer - her female self slowly killing her.

While Southern Comfort is about transgenders, I think that it has wide appeal. When Robert's girlfriend Lola (played wonderfully by Jeff McCarthy) sings of having to drive 200 miles before a hospital will accept and care for Robert, I am easily reminded of hospitals which would not accept blacks in a Jim Crow south.

This Off Off Broadway musical will interest and appeal to those who has not felt comfortable in their bodies, those who have been rejected; those who have felt like an outcast and anyone in a family who has lost a strong and influential patriarch. Southern Comfort plays through the end of the month at CAP21 but something tells me that it may extend or even move to a larger theater.

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