Arts & Entertainment
Ringwald One-Act Recalls The Price Of Serenity
By John Quinn
Originally printed 9/19/2013 (Issue 2138 - Between The Lines News)
The Ringwald Theatre has justly earned a reputation for presenting unique shows. "Please Give Me Your Money ... So I Can Buy a Vagina!" is beyond unique. Julia Marsh wrote and performs this sketch comedy, with Joe Bailey of The Ringwald as director. Both witty and provocative, this one-woman show is an intimate account of a journey toward "quiet confidence."
Julia Marsh is a pre-operative transsexual. The title of the play, therefore, is self-explanatory. While I can count a fair number of transgendered people among my friends and acquaintances, I've pretty much ignored their more personal stories. I think of the opening line, sung by the female impersonators of "La Cage": "We are what we are" - but what transsexuals are is not an illusion. Transvestitism and transsexuality are not the same.
I found the website http://www.Transsexual.org, the iGuide resource for the Encyclopedia Britannica (which unfortunately hasn't been updated in a while), to be helpful in putting Julia's monologue into a larger context. Transsexual people identify as a member of the sex opposite to that assigned at birth, and desire to live and be accepted as such. Transsexuality is not about sexuality; it is about identity, about being one's self. "Sex is how the body is shaped, how it functions, male or female. Gender is the 'sex' of the brain, apart from the body."
According to Marsh, her odyssey toward "transgender congruence" began at birth. She leavens fact with a little fantasy, recalling her own circumcision - and her disappointment that it wasn't more complete. "Please Give Me Your Money ... So I Can Buy a Vagina!" recounts a life-long pursuit of balance in her self-image, self-reflection and self-expression.
Kudos to director Bailey for demonstrating that monologue need not be monotonous. Moreover, as artistic director of The Ringwald, he was savvy in remounting this one-act from this year's Gay Play Series. The audience is arranged around a roughly triangular performance space, and no one is far from the performer. Her director keeps Marsh in motion, moving from areas distinguished by lights - floor lamps, chandeliers and conceptual street lights. All in all, it's a remarkably personal experience.
Marsh's material is strong, compelling and very entertaining. That she is an accomplished performer but not an "actress" lends an unabashed realism to the show. The trials she withstood - the alienation from her family (and the subsequent homelessness) to a beating by thugs - should have left bitter, spiteful scars. They didn't. For all it serious moments, this is an upbeat piece of theater illustrating a recurring literary theme: the triumph of the will.
Now "Please Give Me Your Money ... So I Can Buy a Vagina!" is not "The Little Engine Who Could"; it is not a show for everybody. Everyone is on his or her own spectrum towards achieving congruence. How long is the trip from hatred to tolerance to acceptance?
'Please Give Me Your Money... So I Can Buy a Vagina!'
The Ringwald Theatre, 22742 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. 7 p.m. Friday, Sep. 13, 20 & 27. 55 minutes. $10. 248-545-5545. http://www.theringwald.com
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