Review: TRANSom by Ground Floor Theatre
by David Glen Robinson
Transom is a play about found families and the demands they place on their members to keep them together. This gives the play the dramatic tension that makes for engaging stage presentations. The play being about a family of transgender and gender nonconforming individuals only emphasizes its point that, in its essence, a found family is no different from otherl families.
The cast and most of the production staff are transgender pesons. That may seem like a novelty, but it renders the play’s authenticity unquestionable. Libby Carr and Lane Stanley scripted the play with contributions from the cast. Carr and Stanley may be described more accurately as scenarists, and the show is billed as a devised work.
Lisa Scheps and Jess O’Rear share the directorial tasks, and their direction is the primary virtue of the play. They bring together the stories of cast members' many paths through life and craft them into a smooth, coherent narrative. These stories, enacted as much as told, have the ring of truth and paint a sharply detailed mural of trans life today. The cast is line-perfec, although there are few issues with voacl projection; they are Adrian Clark, Deidre Darling, Siri Gurudev, Jess O’Rear, Lisa Scheps, Elián Sweeten, and Alyssa Thompson.
The expansive, luxurious set presents three large rooms across the wide GFT stage with numerous entrances. It's the most spectacular set there since last year’s There and Back. Credit goes to Heather Jarmon.
Stagework today cannot be any one thing. Nowadays it seems de rigeur to combine live action with other media. Transom’s embrace of the world of polymedia is cleverer than most. The character of Max (Jess O’Rear) introduces Instagram to the family. He is too energetic by half, although unfailingly positive and supportive, and he has a fascination with vlogging all of reality, starting with his family members’ bedrooms. The family of course finds him jerky, quirky, intrusive, and transgressive.But they can’t hold together without him. The video results are shown in short segments on an upstage screen, interspersed through the live action of the play.
Transom is full of humor but contains plenty of tragic situations. Another unexpected bit of frame-bending occurs toward the end. Max's photocam focuses on Sandy, played by Lisa Scheps. She gives her testimony, and then the play pivots; it becomes a documentary. The character of Sandy is close to Sheps’ own embracing personality, and Lisa figuratively steps out of the play while telling us via Instagram video from within the play of her commitment to equity for the trans community and all communities underrepresented in our society. Director/actor Scheps has articulated these themes for years, her motivations for founding Ground Floor Theatre and establishing its mission. She articulates them in Transom, from within the heart of the art, from within the innermost Chinese box, revealing the brilliance from within the egg.
Transom is for all thoughtful adults, especially those involved in or wishing to know more about activism and social advocacy for transgender persons. Transom runs August 15-31, 2019 at Ground Floor Theatre, 979 Springdale Road, east Austin.
August 15 - August 31, 2019
979 Springdale Rd
Austin, TX, 78702
Performances run August 15-31, 2019 at Ground Floor Theatre, 979 Springdale Road, Austin, TX at the corner of Springdale and Airport. Performances are Thursday through Saturday nights at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 5:00 PM.
The “First Friday” performance on August 16 includes a reception.
Ground Floor Theatre believes in “theatre for everyone” regardless of ability to pay, so tickets are always “Pay What You Can”.