By Tulis McCall
If D’Lo had his choice of an additional body part, I am guessing it would be wings. At the end of this one person show he dons butterfly wings, but an observer would not be challenged for thinking they were there all the time.
To T, ot Not To T, part of the HOT Festival at Dixon Place is one of those autobiographical shows that are flooding the theatrical bandwidth all over creation. Part storytelling and part acting, they can be elusive in their purpose. Why is the “character” talking? What does s/he want? What do they specifically want to do to us, other than win us over? This show is no exception in the elusive department. What saves it is D’Lo himself. He is charming. He is earnest. He is someone who wants to inform so that kids, or anyone really, who finds themselves searching for a safe place to land can take use his story as fuel for their own furnace.
The title refers to D’Lo’s decision to start a regimen of testosterone. D’Lo was born female and identifies as male. Not everyone chooses testosterone. Transitions are specific to the individual and let’s not assume anything. He also had top surgery at some point and no, he does not have a penis, except for his internal set. These specifics are dispensed with easily because D’Lo has nothing to hide. Not only does he have nothing to hide, he has everything to share. He has had many disappointments/discoveries on the journey: men cane unkind to one another; feminists can be perjoritive if you don’t fit the picture. Over and over again D’Lo has chosen the path of get happy. He has chosen to stay close to the fire that is life affirming.
Born into an Indian family in California, he identified as a “Boi” back when we probably called these kids TomBoys. Dresses were an anathema. As he grew up and hormones kicked in he followed his spirit and let himself be himself. No small feat. Hew was attracted to the other girls and at the same time had deep, deep friendships with a few boys. His father was his idol and his mother was his treasure. As D’Lo grew and began to find his own sexual identity his parents had the choice of disowning him or being his honor guard. They chose the latter. Not without hesitation, however, and not without some serious communicating initiated by D’Lo.
D’Lo portrays a number of characters in his life but none with the specificity and care that he gives to his parents. His father’s toast at D’Lo’s commitment ceremony (why not marriage?) is a running theme in this piece. It is poignant and hilarious and treads that very fine line between satire and truth. (When the video of his father actually his speech was shown, however, and there was nothing in it that resembled D’Lo’s text. I was confused.)
D’Lo introduces us to his tribe as he grows up, and one of the most intimate scenes is when he and a few others are sitting under the stars wondering what made them the way they are. Born female choosing to identify as male and to chart their own paths, each a little different than the other. And what about the legions of people coming out in the accepted sense of the word, but also coming out into the world. Stepping out into the light dressed as they choose, identifying themselves as they choose. Like the Balinese Hinduism that embraces Man-woman and the space in between.
In the end, and this is not the end, D’Lo wants us all to know that happiness IS possible. It is not something handed to folks on a silver platter. It may be a birthright, but it is a right that we must cherish and protect. It begins with listening to that offbeat, oddly shaped voice inside that guides us.
The show itself needs work. Less preaching and more out of the box writing. Is it enough to tell your story? What is the nut of the piece? As the moment the show meanders down its path but forgets to drop breadcrumbs for us to follow. I was lost more than once in the narrative. The evening succeeds because D’Lo is a charismatic guide. Attention to more work on shaping the text will only serve to enhance.
As I was finishing this review I was thinking, “Is there anything new here?” Because in many ways D’Lo is spreading the now accepted gospel that our individual happiness has as its source our honesty. And our individual happiness is the only thing that will make this world a safe place. I was wondering who needed to hear this specific story. To whom would it make a difference? The more than enthusiastic audience who had nearly killed themselves laughing throughout the night. I was, however, thinking more along the lines of – where would D’Lo take this next? And then, as if in answer to my question, Donald Trump tweeted “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.” NB – the military experts were never consulted and OH PS The Armed services medical costs for transgender are roughly 8 million, Viagra is 41 Million and ED is 84 million… I say the next stop on D’Lo’s tour is the Pentagon.
To T or Not to T – written and performed by D’Lo, Directed by Adeline Anthony
Dixon Place (Ellie Covan, Founding & Artistic Director) proudly presents the 26th Annual HOT! Festival, the NYC annual celebration of LGBTQ culture. At Dixon Place (161A Chrystie Street). The HOT! Festival, which is the world’s longest-running festival of its kind, is a performance destination for emerging LGBTQ talent in theatre, music, dance, puppetry and visual arts. A benchmark for other queer festivals around the globe, HOT! Festival continues its celebration this year July 5th to August 4th. Tickets to TO T, OR NOT TO T are $22 in advance, $25 at the door, and $15 for students and seniors. For tickets and further information please visit http://dixonplace.org/performances/to-t-or-not-to-t/ or call 866-811-4111. For information on the HOT! Festival, log on to http://dixonplace.org/category/hot-nyc-celebration-of-queer-culture/