When it comes down to it, most of us are looking for very similar things in life. Someone who understands us. Someone who loves us unconditionally. Someone who will physically touch us. Someone who is kind to us and accepts us as we are.
Written by Philip Dawkins, Charm by Mixed Blood Theatre brings us the story of Mama Darleena, a trans woman in her 60s who decides there is a need to teach etiquette to LGBTQI youth in Chicago. Julienne “Mizz June” Brown plays Mama and she’s just the right balance of affectionate but disciplinary to serve as a great role model for her students. Some of them show up merely looking for some free food, but as they spend more time together week after week, they all find something that everyone seeks: a connection.
There’s Ariela, played by the tall, gorgeous Rehema Mertinez, who seeks a friend and a mother figure but also has secrets to hide. Jay Owen Esienberg made my heart ache for his confused and jittery Lady who seems stuck in the middle of the spectrum and isn’t quite sure how to handle it. Jennifer Waweru plays an endearing and lovely Victoria who’s trying to do right by her husband Donnie (Ryan Colbert) in keeping up appearances of a happy marriage, but they too have their secrets. Mix in Beta (Jay Simmons), Jonelle (Alyssandra Taylor) and Logan (Nathan Barlow) and the show hits many spots along the gender spectrum.
Charm is about the stories behind each character and shows that you can’t make assumptions about someone’s status in life based on gender or socioeconomic status. Director Addie Gorlin has put together a show that is raw and heartbreaking, yet hopeful.
While I firmly believe that gender is a spectrum, I admittedly still struggle with the mindset of trying to fit people into boxes, so I’m incredibly grateful to Mixed Blood for continually bringing us shows like this that will expand my mind. I grew up in a very white suburb of the Twin Cities and had very little exposure to people who weren’t obviously male or female, so this is a work in progress for me. Inherently, I know that it doesn’t matter if I can’t fit people into a box. They are a person, not a box, and as long as there is mutual respect, who cares? Especially in light of all the recent news about transgenders’ use of bathroom, this is something we need to remind ourselves of.
So I extend a “thank you” to Mixed Blood for presenting a show that is relevant and respectful and wonderful. Shows like this are why I will continue to have a Mixed Blood Membership.
Charm at Mixed Blood Theatre
April 22 – May 8
1501 South 4th Street
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