BOY by Anna Ziegler. directed by Susan Marie Rhea | Photo: Cameron Whitman Photography

DC Metro Theater Arts: BOY

“Oh, god. Maybe it didn’t work,” the mother exclaims in alarm. It’s the moment in this hold-your-breath drama when she realizes the gender experiment done on her child, one of two identical twins born male, had been a horrendous failure.

The play by Anna Ziegler, titled Boy, was inspired by a true story. The riveting and affecting production at Keegan Theatre sweeps us into the emotional mess that [a] doctor made of that child’s life—an inconceivable inner torment that in John Jones’s phenomenal performance feels heartrendingly real.

Susan Marie Rhea directs with all the care this sensitive story requires. … The extraordinary supporting cast of four—Karen Novack and Mike Kozemchak as the mother and father, Vishwas as the doctor, Lida Maria Benson as the girlfriend—are each movingly invested in seeking to understand the anguish of the central character played by Jones. But Ziegler’s script, which at times feels underwritten, stays on the chatty social surface of things, leaving depths of unspoken emotion to the actors to understand and deliver. And it is here that Jones’s performance is most striking, for they have found far, far more feeling than is in the text. It is as though they have so personally identified with the character’s gender journey that in the intense immediacy of their expression we cannot but travel along.

Portions of Boy are excruciating to contemplate. (And the true story on which it is based is even more so.) But in John Jones’s transcendent performance as both the girl Samantha and the boy Adam, this play ostensibly about sex assignment becomes an indelible journey of the genderless heart.

This one’s too precious to pass up.

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