Diversionary Theatre is launching a three-production “gender series,” plays where gender-queer characters appear. In March and April, audiences will see the West Coast premiere of Miranda Rose Hall’s play, Plot Points in our Sexual Development. Diversionary also produced the world premiere of Ms. Hall’s The Hour of Great Mercy, which was recently given the Craig Noel Award for Outstanding New Play of 2019. In May and June, Diversionary will produce the musical, Head Over Heels, which is based on a 16th Century play featuring the kind of cross-dressing and gender confusion that was commonly portrayed in that era.
For February and March, Diversionary is presenting the world premiere of Sylvan Oswald’s A Kind of Weather, the story of a father’s relationship with his trans-masculine son. The play plumbs the depths of how a cis-gender father adapts when his trans son is what’s left of his life. The 90-minute, no intermission, production thoughtfully presents characters winding their way through relationships they want to be intimate.
August Forman goes by gender neutral pronouns. This review uses they/them/theirs.
One would expect that Kid (August Forman) would be the center of the story, and in some ways they are. But, both Kid and their father, Grey (Andrew Oswald), announce near the beginning that Grey is the leading character. So, let’s focus on Grey for a bit.
Grey shows up at Kid’s apartment unannounced. He’s more than a little confused, and he keeps imagining that he is in Jamaica, the Caribbean island, rather than in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Kid is annoyed that Grey has arrived without warning but takes him in.
It turns out that Grey doesn’t really have anywhere else to go. His wife, Kid’s mother, died suddenly, and Janice (Marci Anne Wuebben), the woman with whom Grey was having an affair, has left him as well.
Kid, for their part, is writing a memoir that they insist is not about their transition. To complicate matters, they’re dating their editor, Rose (Andréa Agosto), who is also worrying that Kid is blocked, as opposed to taking a long time to make revisions. Looming over Rose’s shoulder is her boss, Rick (Salomón Maya), who worries that Rose and Kid’s relationship will damage the memoir.
The problem here is that Grey is a much less interesting character than Kid. Grey may or may not be edging into dementia, and while his flashbacks to Jamaica and to his relationship with Janice ultimately lead to emotional catharsis, what’s much more interesting is his relationship with Kid, about whom he sometimes slips and calls his “daughter.”
Kid, on the other hand, wants to get on with life and be successful as a writer. They also want to be seen as the man they have become, especially by Rose and by their father. Their father’s presence brings up old issues they thought were long finished.
Sylvan Oswald’s play sometimes feels as though it is moving through great spirals, as relationships often do. Each spiral reveals a bit more, but very little is fully explained. Audiences may find such a structure less than satisfying.
On the other hand, the production, under Bea Basso’s sensitive direction, works to clarify what could be a confusing story. Andrew Oswald’s Grey earns his catharsis, even if his character’s story is well-worn. Marci Anne Wuebben makes Janice an unconventional “other woman,” one who has a rich emotional life to bring to her relationship with Grey. Andréa Agosto movingly portrays a woman in conflict, both in her work life and her intimate life. Salomón Maya only appears later in the play and often looks as though he’d rather not be there.
As Kid, August Forman is utterly convincing, providing both the depth and the sweep that comes with the character’s emotional changes that occur like the play’s “kind of weather.”
The production is also strong. Yi-Chien Lee’s scenic and props design follows the style of her successful design for Diversionary production of Girlfriend. Joel Britt provides a dream-like lighting design. Elisa Benzoni’s costumes tell their own stories about the characters. MaeAnn Ross’s competent sound design stays in the background much of the time.
More a window into its characters’ lives than a complete narrative, A Kind of Weather presents those lives as rich, complex, and potentially loving. The production whets the appetite for the two yet to come.
Performances run Thursdays at 7pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm, through March 8. Street parking only available: parking can be very difficult to find. Taxi or a ride-sharing service may be a preferable way to and from the theatre. The #11 bus line drops off and picks up nearby. There are a number of restaurants and bars in the immediate vicinity of the theatre. This review is based on the opening night performance, Saturday, February 15th.