Monday, March 26, 2018

The Mermaid Hour—Milagro—SE Portland

Photo by Russell J. Young
The Gender Issue

    This production of a World Premiere is written by David Valdes Greenwood and directed by Sacha Reich.  It is playing at the Milagro space, 525 SE Stark St., through April 14th.  For more information, go to their site at

    God must have had an extremely delicate and difficult job when creating.  Observe the intricate make-up of all living things, from the massive inner structures of giant beast, to the miniature make-up of cell creatures…to the plant life, birds and fishes…and finally to the complex labyrinth of human beings—body, mind and issues of identity and sexuality, which seems to dominate the news today.  The Bard has said, “we are such stuff as dreams are made on…” and those dreams should be of happiness, not nightmares!

    A “mermaid hour” is that magic time between the transformation from fish to human (and back again) when both aspects of one’s being can be fully appreciated…and so, this idea relates to trans individuals, those who may have the outer body of one sex but the inner longings of the opposite sex.  Keep in mind that we all have had gender identity issues of some sort.  Most of us grew up with Moms telling girls to wear dresses and play with dolls, and Dads nudging boys into their roles as sportsmen.  Choices of gender issues are taken away from children and we feel we must comply with them.  I applaud those willing to break the mold and fly (or swim) free!

    The story is chocked full of ideas which could easily be overwhelming but in the author’s artistic hands, have been streamlined to some extent, for a clearer understanding of the issues.  We have a family, consisting of Bird (Jed Arkley), an optimistic skeptic, and his wife, Pilar (Nelda Reyes), a nurturing Mom, who are the parents of a 12-year-old trans girl, Violet (Jaryn Lasentia), and wants to get hormone suppression shots so that she can pursue her natural instincts and become a woman.  Her best, most intimate friend, is a gay male, Jacob (Kai Hynes).  But his mother, Mika (Barbie Wu), is not quite so accepting of the relationship between the two.  After some missteps, which could have led to tragedy, an understanding social worker, Crux (Michael Cavazos), gives them some guidance.  This is only a thumbnail sketch but some discoveries need to be left to the audience.

    This story, I’m sure, might be familiar territory to those searching for answers, both as Youth and parents, and could be considered an educational tool, as well.  There are many different locations for this tale but are solved with some clever lighting (designer, Kim Williams) and a very savvy director, who understands the subject matter and has a very talented cast.  The most illuminating part of the play for me was the long monologues, very naturalistically delivered by the father (Arkley), when he talks of how his boy changed one day at a baseball game from a son to daughter.  Very poignant.  In fact, the whole cast is super, all giving revealing and believable performances, especially (as mentioned) Arkley, and Lasentia, in the key role as the daughter.

    A final thought—in our Constitution it begins with “We, the People…” a phrase that seems to have been forgotten in recent months.  It does not add, except for people of color, or other cultures, or religious beliefs or trans, et. al.  That item has been trampled upon recently by the powers that be, and it is about time that our future generation, The Youth, are currently the models of what this country could be and, I believe, will be soon.  “Bless the Beasts and Children!”

    I highly recommend this play.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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