DC Metro Theater Arts: TRANS AM and FROM GUMBO TO MUMBO

In two live shows at Keegan Theatre, a trans woman and two Black men get real

The Keegan Theatre’s streamed live performances from their stage are the closest thing I’ve seen so far to theater as we remember it avant le deluge. They are presenting two pieces in repertory, which investigate vital aspects of identity, from transgender awareness to Black Lives Matter, and which enhance our respect for the resilience of the human spirit. Trans Am and From Gumbo to Mumbo are part of the crucial work of dismantling America’s unspoken caste system, as described by Isabel Wilkerson in her best-selling book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.

It is easy to see what the two productions have in common, and why they belong together.

A transgender woman must struggle with the expectations of what a male should be, and face insults, threats, violence, even death. A young Black man must deal with psychological projections of all kinds whatever his actions or personality. He too will confront insults, threats, violence, and the possibility that he will lose his life thanks to the ignorance and cruelty of others. And in both Trans Am and From Gumbo to Mumbo, there is a momentous breakthrough: the protagonists, although faced with terrible injustice, are ultimately able to live life, if not exactly on their own terms, as their authentic selves.

Fortunately, Trans Am and From Gumbo to Mumbo feature performers who excel in that most difficult of roles: themselves. … Neither of the two is, strictly speaking, a play. But that doesn’t really matter. They are both testaments to human endurance and courage, and they bring us important voices that are essential to our growth as Americans.

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