|Mr. Liz Bouk|
Living in an oh-so-liberal New York City gives us the illusion that the world has changed dramatically, offering women the opportunity to abandon traditional roles and to rise in the world of commerce, to achieve motherhood without the so-called benefit of marriage, or to do both. This is not the case in the rest of the country.
But changes in gender identity are afoot everywhere and must be examined as a separate issue from that of homosexuality and cross-dressing. There exists alongside one's gender of sexual preference the issue of one's outward presentation to the world and also one's inner gender identity. Our vocabularies have expanded to include not just homosexuality and transvestitism, but the transgender state. LGBTQIA has arrived but don't be surprised if more letters are added to the chain.
Mr. Liz is a special and unique individual. We know him for at least five years as a gifted mezzo-soprano, always impressing us with the strength of his characterizations (from Lucretia to Fosca, from the Komponist to Augusta Tabor) and the superiority of his vocalism. Last night, in a highly personalized performance co-written with Director Brittany Goodwin, Mr. Liz revealed his inner man.
We got no impression that he wants to transform his body at the moment, but rather is coming to terms with an inner identity that has led to spiritual expansion and life satisfaction. His journey has been supported by his loving husband Dan and adorable son William who both appeared in the show. What a success to have kept the family together, a marvelous tribute to all concerned.
Enough sociology! Let us move on to the entertainment! The show opened with Mr. Liz talking about his Grandma Bill, and letting us know that he grew up in a conservative Christian family where hymns were sung. He was a tomboy and could have cared less for dolls. One of our favorite songs on the program was William Bolcom's "Lime Jello Surprise" which sent up the home-maker image to which girls were subjected. We might add that Mr. Liz and Ms. Goodwin did a swell job of curating the songs to tell his story--from the world of opera, musical theater, and cabaret.
Entering Mr. Liz's life as a physics tutor was the fine young man Dan with whom Mr. Liz fell in love and married. Pregnancy soon followed which changed his life. Motherhood felt alien. (Clearly loving was not alien, as evidenced by the affection observed between Mr. Liz and his son William.)
One reaction to this unwelcome role was to assume the role of temptress. Witnessing Mr. Liz's stellar delivery of the "Habanera" from Bizet's Carmen was a treat for the audience but it wasn't what Mr. Liz felt on the inside. Assuming various operatic roles certainly does allow the singer to experiment with various roles.
In the next scene, Mr. Liz removes the sexy makeup, pulls his long blonde hair back into a pony tail and dons a man's suit and shoes. Our second favorite song of the evening was the soliloquy "My Boy Bill" from Rodger' and Hammerstein's 1945 Carousel. We have never heard it performed better. It put the capstone on the theme from the beginning of the show--the expectations put on girls. Boys do exciting things with their fathers and are expected to achieve. Little girls are expected to be cute and play with dolls.
Of course, this is changing today with gender neutral clothing and toys. Will gender ever be eradicated? Of course not! There will always be men and women who enjoy traditional roles. The point is that modern society is becoming more flexible and less binary.
Mr. Liz was inspired by the image of walking on the seashore in full contact with both the sand and the sea. The title of the show was "living in the in-between". We hope we haven't revealed too much about the show. We really want you, dear reader, to experience it for yourself. It will surely arouse thoughts, feelings, and memories for you, as it did for us.
Kathryn Olander was the effective collaborative pianist. The evocative set design was achieved by Maria Torffield with lighting design by Luther Frank.
(c) meche kroop