The play is intelligent and sensitive. Well presented, especially by the two principal actors. And it’s genuinely thought-provoking. But in spite of all this it just may not be your cup of tea.
“Rotterdam,” written by Jon Brittain, is now having its West Coast premiere at the Skylight Theatre in Los Angeles and it deals with the emotional turmoil that three women undergo as they confront their self-proclaimed identity as lesbians.
Alice (Miranda Wynne) has avoided “coming out” to her parents by running off to Rotterdam with her boyfriend Josh (Ryan Brophy). In the seven years that they have lived in Holland their relationship has evolved from lovers to “best friends.” Even though they quarrel constantly Josh continues to hope that they will be together again at some future time.
That hope is dashed, however, when Alice meets Josh’s sister Fiona (Ashley Romans) and the two women fall in love. After a while Fiona, who came out to her parents at 17, encourages Alice to do the same, and Alice hesitantly writes a flowery email to her parents. But she can’t bring herself to send it.
Meanwhile Fiona confesses “I was meant to be a man!” She believes that she is actually a man born in a woman’s body, and adds, “I always thought I was gay, but I want to stop trying to be a woman.” To which Alice responds, “If you’re a man, am I straight?”
“If Fee were a man you wouldn’t be with her,” Josh says. “Are you a has-been?”
But Fiona decides to change her sexual orientation and she and Alice talk about the physical aspects of such a change, and how much of that Fiona will undertake. Having received a hesitant acquiescence from Alice, Fiona plunges into the idea of the change and announces that her new persona will be called Adrian.
At this point Alice meets a young Dutch girl named Liana and the two become friends. Reluctantly, Alice goes along as Liana introduces her to a raucous New Year’s Eve party, to strong drinks, and to marijuana cigarettes.
Things go relatively smoothly as the act ends, but in the second act, four months later, Fiona has fully transformed herself into Adrian. She/he has a scanty head of hair neatly arranged in cornrows and is dressed casually in men’s clothing. But the transformation has not yet begun to convince anyone that Adrian is not a woman, and he rages about the indignity of being addressed as a woman and being refused entry into the men’s bathroom.
“I want people to see me the way I see myself,” he says. “I didn’t used to be a woman.” But when he proposes to Alice, she breaks up with him. “I can’t marry you because I like girls,” she says. “You got rid of the woman I loved and became a man that I can’t love,” she concludes. And, after years of uncertainty, she finally accepts the fact that she really is gay.
As she leaves, Adrian, in tears, comments ruefully, “Why doesn’t she want me? I haven’t changed.”
But this isn’t the end of the play. Playwright Brittain and Director Michael Shepperd have a few surprises and a bit more to say. If you aren’t offended by the subject matter, you will certainly enjoy the play. Except for the hideously raucous music they bombard you with before the play begins and during the intermission. Too loud and too long, Jon and Mike!
“Rotterdam” can be seen Friday and Saturday at 8:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m., and Monday at 8 p.m. through December 31 at the Skylight Theatre, 1816 1/2 North Vermont Ave. in Los Angeles. For reservations and tickets call 213-761-7061.
Miranda Wynne (left) makes sure that Ashley Romans keeps her distance in a scene from
“Rotterdam,” now playing at Los Angeles’ Skylight Theatre.
Photo by Ed Krieger