Sky Gilbert’s Ladylike, a new one-act play written specifically for Canada’s favourite trans woman, Nina Arsenault, comes to us by way of a well-received run in Hamilton. The play—in which Arsenault’s character mostly addresses the audience (and occasionally her boyfriend, played by Wes Berger) on subjects like her family history, her many cosmetic surgery procedures, and ideas about gender construction—probably seemed pretty audacious and daring for Hamilton, but it’s interesting to see how a downtown Toronto audience reacts to the subject matter. Although the story is fictional, the character is obviously modelled after Arsenault, giving her the opportunity to pretty much be herself on stage. At various times she challenges the bourgeois sensibilities of the audience, calling them middle class and demanding that they not judge her… which is a kind of judgment itself.
The queer-positive, the trans-savvy and the sexual diversity studies majors probably aren’t going to hear much new or revelatory in this show, but the intended audience is the less-informed layperson, and that’s fair enough. As for the play itself, the real gem of the show is Arsenault. Sky Gilbert is a famous writer, but that doesn’t mean he’s always a good one, and his meandering script is repetitive and lacking in structure. In addition, the forced interactions with the boyfriend character are chemistry-free and fall flat. But whenever Arsenault gets an opportunity to just talk to the audience and share her experience, she commits to such a present, generous performance that it’s impossible not to like this intelligent, articulate, and surprisingly gentle person.
Ladylike plays this evening at the Fringe Club at 6:00 p.m.
Other interesting shows tonight include:
Free Range, a play about a “sassy hypochondriac” who falls in love with her tapeworm, Warren, written and performed by the hilarious Emily Pearlman. You can catch it at 6:30 p.m. at the Passe Muraille Backspace. Mr. Fox is a new collaboration between Greg Landucci and Fringe wunderkind TJ Dawe, who brought us last year’s hit Dishpig. This new show, about the world of professional mascotting, plays at 5:30 p.m. tonight at the Factory Studio. Finally, if that’s not quite enough Dawe for you, you could check out his own one-man show Totem Figures at the Glen Morris Theatre at 9:30 p.m. We weren’t wild about last year’s Maxim & Cosmo, but his plays are generally pretty awesome.
Photo by Stephan Gregoire.