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Looking For Normal

After 25 years of a good marriage, Roy (John Rosen) wants to make a major change in his life. He wants to undergo a sex-change operation and become the woman he believes he was born to be. This doesn't sit well with his family or the small-minded folk of his small town in Ohio. Playwright Jane Anderson focuses on Roy's family--wife Irma (Terri Parks), touring rocker son Wayne (Lance Rogers), and budding teenager Patty Anne (Natasha Feldman)--and how they cope with the news and the monumental change in their lives. The characters treat Roy's change as a death, and they go through the various stages in the same way: shock, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, and acceptance.

Anderson lays it on a bit heavy-handed at times with Irma's menopause, Patty Anne's first period and tomboyishness, and Roy's lesbian Grandma Ruth's (Jeannette Horn) ghostly asides to the audience. Even though the dialogue and action can get a bit sitcom-ish at times--with Rev. Muncie's (William Tanner) biblical counseling, Roy's bickering parents (Kate Hewitt and Duane Leake), and Roy's best friend Frank (Gerard Maxwell) making a bumbling attempt at seducing Irma--the play still packs a powerful wallop.

This is due mainly to the sensitive direction of Lisa Berger and the nuanced acting of her company. Berger gets all the humor, true and uncomfortable as it may be, out of the writing. Parks is the standout in the cast, and her character's love for Roy never falters as she accompanies him on this strange journey. Horn brings a lovely sensibility and warmth to Ruth while Feldman and Rogers beautifully delineate the confusions of children caught in a very weird marital situation. Rosen comes on a little too soft and doesn't show enough growth or change as he goes from man to woman, yet his vulnerability and courage still shine through. Having seen the World Premiere of this play at Los Angeles' Geffen Theatre a few years ago, I must give kudos to Diversionary, Berger, and her cast for getting more out of Anderson's play than I originally thought was there. This is a very funny, very touching, very humane piece of theatre.

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