TRANS AM, by Lisa Stephen Friday, directed by Fred Berman. Photo by Cameron Whitman Photography.

MD Theatre Guide: TRANS AM

It’s old news that theatre is undergoing a transformation this year due to the pandemic. At the same time, it might be the most important moment for the rawness and immediacy the institution offers. This is something that is perfectly captured in Keegan Theatre’s new show, Trans Am, a world-premiere musical and one-woman rock performance. The woman is Lisa Stephen Friday, and the show is a gorgeous memoir mashup that explores Friday’s musical awakening, transition, and the process of becoming herself.

Written and performed by Friday, the show chronicles the performer’s life and career to date. Friday’s telling of her own life is intimate, hilarious, sexy, sometimes sad, but always incredibly engaging. She ably translates her skill as a musician into finding the beats of her own experience, often punctuating stories with the perfect line.

Trans Am is as much showing as telling, as Friday both narrates and performs her personal history, acting out scenes and singing her own songs. A dynamic performer, Friday commands the stage, often climbing atop equipment during a song, in true rock fashion. The show’s music is drawn from her own punk rock band, Lisa Jackson & Girl Friday. The ear-wormy songs are sometimes interspersed with the script, and sometimes presented as standalone, dramatic interludes, separating chapters of her life.

Friday is a generous performer that ably communicates the highs and lows of her journey. And, as in any rock-n-roll memoir, there are some lows. … “You want to see my life, the choices I was given, the choices I survived,” Friday challenges her listeners, in one of the show’s songs, a line that could also sum up the story of Trans Am itself. Yet, the audience is left with the sense of a story not just about survival, but thriving in the face of uncertainty. Being live-streamed instead of recorded serves the show well. It’s live, and alive, a reminder of the immediacy and connection that theatre, music, and artists like Friday, can provide.

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