Review From The House
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Nelly Boy by Dave Deveau
Directed by Cameron Mackenzie
Zee Zee Theatre and Screaming Weenie Productions
Oct 22- Nov 1, 2009
Vancouver, BC: For 75 minutes you could have heard a pin drop in the small space of the PAL theatre. As the actors exited and the lights went to black, the words "brave, terrifying, sad" competed in my head with "so that's the real Allan Zinyk". I think this is the first time I have seen him playing a normal person in a straight as opposed to a comedic role, and it brought to mind a handsome Allan Rickman - as Steven Spurrier (Bottle Shock) not the infamous Snape, of course.
But I digress. Zinyk plays the Man/ Father of Nelly/Nelson (Amitai Marmorstein) a fragile young teenager who is struggling to come to terms with gender identity. As Man (not a social worker, a cop, a teacher, a lawyer- therapist maybe?), who is simply there to get Nelly to tell his story, Zinyk conveys flashes of compassion, mixed with irritation and impatience, with sudden switches of character to become Dad.
"Brave, terrifying, sad." The show really belongs to Amitai Marmorstein. From the moment we see a terrified young person, running naked down a highway - the event that precipitates his interrogation by the Man - the play unfolds almost as the monologue in which form it was originally conceived. And we watch Nelly Boy confront the terrifying situation of uncertainty about his gender - who is he/she - and what if it is neither? Biologically male, Nelly knows he is not the son, Nelson, that his father sees, yet clearly he is not the female Nelly persona. It is difficult to comprehend the sense of isolation and despair that such a young person must experience particularly when his father can neither see nor comprehend his anguish.
Director Mackenzie with set designer Marina Szijarto sets this play in a room with the four walls demarcated by metal frames. The audience is in two sections facing each other across the playing space. It is a very intimate setting in which false emotions would stand out glaringly. Marmorstein is utterly believeable as the fragile and vulnerable, yet brave Nelly Boy.
It's not an easy play to watch - but both actors turn in solid perfomances and it touches on matters that are not often openly talked about. I thought it well worth seeing. Tickets are available through Tickets Tonight.