Director: Adelina Anthony
Reviewer: Carrie Lee O’Dell
In his new solo show — To T, or Not to T — actor/writer/comic D’Lo addresses the intersection of multiple aspects of his identity. With razor-sharp wit and impeccable comic timing, he navigates the rocky road of coming out as queer, trans, and not-going-to-be-a-doctor to his Tamil family with a little help from Yo! MTV Raps.
Framing anecdotes from his life with excerpts from a speech his father made at his wedding, D’Lo describes life growing up in southern California, the tomboy youngest child of Sri Lankan immigrants in the late 1980s. As he grows up, he finds himself more and more uncomfortable in a female body. In college, he identifies as queer, and then trans, getting top surgery and eventually taking testosterone. His parents are unsure of how to handle having a trans child; while they aren’t always supportive, they “[don’t] disown” him and eventually embrace him not just as their child, but as a man.
D’Lo tells the audience early on that this is “a show about [his] Appa,” and it’s evident that father and child share a close bond, even when D’Lo was considered a daughter rather than a son. At one point, D’Lo’s mother, Sita, tells her son that he is just like his father; at this moment, it’s clear that D’Lo’s father has played a significant role in shaping the man he has become. Testosterone (the “T” of the play’s title) is only a small part of D’Lo’s masculinity, though it does make him sound “like Drake on Autotune.”
To T, or Not to T confronts some tragic events, including the death of a family member, and D’Lo somehow manages to give those events the gravity they require even in the midst of a side-splittingly funny show. D’Lo loves to hear his audience laugh; he is a generous comic, sensing when the room wants more and when they want to move on. Part of Dixon Place’s HOT! Festival, the show is presented on a set that’s designed to come down nightly, relying on monkey bars and a child’s tea set to establish themes of youth and innocence. Projections by Meena Murugesan help show D’Lo’s inner turmoil.
It is an absolute delight to watch D’Lo perform. He is welcoming, genuine, and positively hilarious. At the same time, he does not hide the pain and confusion he felt as he came into his own as a man and as a son. When the show ends and he invites the audience upstairs to Dixon Place’s bar, it feels like you’ve just been invited to the best party on the planet. Don’t squander that invitation; this play should not be missed.
Runs until 22 July 2017