A Kind of Weather: Transition as "a coming into focus."
Kid, the handsome, frenetic young trans writer surprised by a visit from his father Grey at the outset of Sylvan Oswald’s A Kind of Weather, is not the play’s main character. This is not a gradual revelation, the sort of thing that dawns on the viewer as actions progress and themes arise. Rather, it is announced near the outset, by Kid himself: “I’m not the main character!” At which point, Grey, dressed in similar-but-not-same shades of brown, steps forward to say, “I’m the main character!” This comes as something of a surprise, even given the little we’ve seen so far. Grey, as his name might suggest, does not command attention the way Kid does. Further, he’s not the one dealing with (and writing about) life as a trans person. He’s a straight, white, middle-aged doctor, and a father who long ago accepted the idea that his daughter is now his son. What gives? Isn’t this part of Diversionary Theatre’s Gender Series?
After the show, I asked a fellow attendee for his take on the main character announcement. He replied, “My question is, why would they take such a contemporary issue as transgenderism as mix it up with this old guy having an affair?” (Right, forgot to mention: Grey tells us early on that he had a long-term affair that began some time after his wife told him she was done with sex. Grey was not done with sex; even now, he says that his memories of it are “like the tiniest electrocution.”) It can be frustrating to have a question answered with a question, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the linking of Kid’s transgenderism and Grey’s affair helped to satisfy my curiosity, and what’s more, helped to get at the play’s essence. Gender is central to the play, but only insofar as it’s about sex — and the love that may attach to it/follow upon it/entwine with it — as experienced by a particular gender. The blunt version is that A Kind of Weather concerns the insight that may comes with hormone therapy. Grey has already learned to see Kid with new eyes; it’s Kid’s turn to look at Grey and reckon with what he sees, now that he’s a he.*
At first, that’s a tall order. Grey drops in while Kid is in the middle of two things: a memoir about his transition and a romance with the editor who got him the book deal. Both are tricky: he has avoided writing about transition because he thinks most books of that sort are boring, “like a bad reality show: How I Re-Did My House and Had a Spiritual Awakening.” But editor Rose is convincing, not least because she’s attracted and attractive. (Kid wants to be a father; Rose has fantasies of hysterical pregnancy.) Plus, they’re both smart about their situations, full of New York knowingness. (San Diego gets the world premiere, but the setting is Brooklyn.)
Still, she’s an editor, and therefore a manager. What’s more, Kid’s newfound, testosterone-fueled sex drive has him asking, “Why should one relationship have to do everything? Why is my desire wrong?” So there are uncertainties, and their attendant tensions, and now here’s Dad, showing up in a kind of fugue, half in Prospect Park and half in Jamaica, where he used to go with his wife. Dad is the one in crisis — bereft and bewildered. Dad is the main character who must find some kind of resolution, and Kid doesn’t even know quite what he’s going through. He just knows Dad’s a problem, and that he might be partly to blame.
The fugue state proves useful to the drama; it allows the details about Dad’s past — both immediate and distant — to emerge slowly, at appropriate moments. (Like most everything about the play, it has the advantage of being played believably and with gentle humor.) Some of his memories are given shape as scenes, several involving his long-term mistress. She enters the fray repeating a story from New York Magazine about a woman who gets lost and so gains “the maddening knowledge of the enormity just beyond the corner.” A strange land with no maps, where your only hope is to find someone who speaks your language. (At one point, she tells her married lover, “I just wish it felt wrong.” Morality is a kind of map — and yet.)
*I should be careful here. Kid isn’t a big fan of the idea that transition always means a change from one thing to another. At one point, he likens it instead to "a coming into focus." At another, he addresses the audience and explains that in theatre, “transition” refers to orchestrated change. Then, gesturing at the blond-wood set with backlit frosted glass that serves as apartment, party space, Jamaican beach, and Prospect Park, he announces that “there are no transitions here. The whole thing is in one place. People are who they say they are. If I say we’re in a musical now, we’re in a musical.” I’ll let you guess what happens next.
- A Kind of Weather, by Sylvan Oswald
- Diversionary Theatre, 4545 Park Boulevard, Suite 101, University Heights
- Directed by Bea Basso, cast: Andrea Agosto, August Foreman, Salomon Maya, Andrew Oswald, Marci Anne Wuebben; scenic design, Yi-Chien Lee; costumes, Elisa Benzoni; lighting, Joel Britt; sound, Maeann Ross
- Playing through March 8, Thursday at 7 pm, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm, Sunday at 2 pm.