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Gender Play
Presented by FemFest 2004

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Reviewed: 2004-10-26 00:40:29
By: John Chase (Director@winnipegonstage.com)

To date I have seen four productions in FemFest 2004, and while there are a number of others that may hold some surprises, Gender Play by Christina Starr is most certainly my favourite of what I've taken in thus far.

Backed by a good cast of two actors and three actresses, this play does not fail to entertain from start to finish, also employing various theatrical elements -- sound, creative movement, and multimedia -- to particularly good effect. Good humour is found in every one of its characters in spite of their tales of sometimes-unpleasant personal experiences, interspersed with the character of "The Director", who keeps the action of the play fresh through the presentation of several hilarious slideshows that hit directly at gender stereotypes as we've thought of them ... or maybe as we haven't.

In addition to the performers, I also give particular credit to the playwright. Ms Starr makes an excellent statement in a unique way about how people are "cast" into a male or female "role" simply because they have the proper equipment, receive this role without ever being properly "auditioned" to see where they fit best, and are then nevertheless turned into outcasts by mainstream society when their desires and behaviour fail to fit the stereotypical "part". She manages to achieve this in a script that I very much appreciated for not reading like a sermon or being contrived in its examples. Rather, the audience is drawn into the personal stories of down-to-earth characters to which they can relate -- regardless of their individual gender or orientation -- and they are allowed to form their own conclusions.

In addition, FemFest is advertised as "plays by women for everyone", and I cannot dispute that all four plays I witnessed do indeed meet this description. However, Gender Play was the only one of those that did not focus on something predominantly a "woman issue", instead rallying a hilarious head-on assault against what are simply "gender issues" in contemporary society.

With characters consisting of a Woman (Natasha Fisher), a Man (Geoff Trubiak), a Male-To-Female (David Barkman), a Female-To-Male (Sarah Granke), and "The Director" (Lorraine James) that appears as both genders, the balance between male and female in this production form a carefully crafted mirror image that should make it an attractive prospect to any theatre-goer -- whether they're attending to gain greater insight into what creates a gender crisis, or simply for an entertaining evening.

John Chase
October 23, 2004

(Note: This production is part of FemFest 2004: an event of "plays by women for everyone" that aims to "showcase work by women that is not reaching the main stages of Canada". Visit - http://www.prairie.ca/~sarasvati )

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