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REALITY AND THEATER INTERSECT

 

picture - Christine Jorgensen RevealsTheater Review

by Kestryl Lowrey

published February 27, 2009

 

Christine Jorgensen Reveals

now playing Off Broadway at The Lion on Theater Row

through March 15

 

In Christine Jorgensen Reveals, Bradford Louryk conjures the “1950s’ most famous woman on Earth” without even saying a word.  He does, however, open his mouth—lip-synching flawlessly to the only interview that Christine ever recorded.  Attired in a fitted skirt and careful make-up, Louryk enlivens Jorgensen’s vibrant candor, placing the audience in a mid-century recording studio with America’s first transsexual.

 

Director Josh Hecht and Louryk (as well as the interviewer, Rob Grace), must have had their work cut out for them, given not only an unalterable script but a pre-recorded delivery as well, which needed to be mirrored in poise and demeanor.  Both clearly rose to the challenge, evidenced by the engagingly elegant simplicity of the piece.

 

Louryk’s physical transformation for the role is meticulous but incomplete—while he captures Christine’s grace and composure, more topical elements such as the wig and makeup were occasionally distracting, passing slightly beyond Christine’s stylishness into a modest drag queen aesthetic.  Luckily, this distraction does not detract from the production as a whole (I can’t help but note, however, that in the interview, Christine declares that, if her life story were to be filmed, “an actress” would have to portray her.  Though Louryk’s performance is infinitely respectful, I wonder if Christine would have quibbled over this detail).

 

Wilson Chin’s set is representational of a recording studio, but not overbearingly so.  The focal point, a console housing an old television, embodies the only other character we ever see in the piece—the interviewer, Mr. Russell (Rob Grace), appears on the screen through the static and haze that characterize television of the period.  This is a clever solution to the necessary second character of the interview, contributing to the aesthetics and drama of the piece without monopolizing our attention.  Our focus can remain on Christine’s words and Louryk’s mouth.

 

The illusion isn’t seamless—and I wouldn’t want it to be.  Louryk’s painstakingly crisp attention to each detail of the recording actually draws our attention to the distance between Jorgensen’s words and Louryk’s body; the performance is more powerful because we know that Louryk isn’t the one speaking.  This is more than a fetish for documentary theatre on my part—far from being a period piece, Christine’s remarks and declarations seem utterly contemporary, reflecting an understanding of gender which some voices today would still deem radical.  The synchronization of Christine’s voice and Louryk’s body reminds us that this is where we were, and forces us to wonder, now, where could we be?

 

kestryl.lowrey @ stageandcinema.com

 

 
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