These days, with the current marriage debate, the “G” (gay) and “L” (lesbian) of GLBT are much in the news. The “B” (bisexual) and “T” (transgender) less so. E.B. Boatner’s “Changes in Time” broadens the discussion of gender identity with a powerful dramatization of the experience of growing up transgender.

These three autobiographical one-act plays, in a production by 20% Theatre Company, currently running at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage, introduce us to a female (Rain as a teenager, Lorraine as an adult), who eventually becomes Laurence. The plays feel deeply personal and intimate, acutely painful but funny as well.

In “Wishes,” set in 1955, 14-year old Rain and her friend, Court, explore their feelings for one another in a tale of the complexity of sexuality with no language to talk about it.

Though Briana Zora Libby and Chava Curland are young actors, they are under the capable direction of Claire Avitabile, executive artistic director of 20%, and they capture the emotional reality of the two girls without unnecessary melodrama.

In “Dresses,” set in 1975, Lorraine is trapped in a car with her mother, debating whether or not she is going to wear a dress to her cousin’s wedding. Their arguing seems almost primal, striking at the heart with the pain of loving incomprehension. Boatner is careful to treat both women with genuine compassion.

Heather Spear’s Lorraine uses tart wit as a defense mechanism, her pain always visible beneath the surface. Muriel Bonertz, as her proper mother, is outstanding in her portrayal of the selfishness of parents while also showing her grief at the loss of her expectations.

In “Changes,” set in the early 1990s, Laurence (Chris Little) confronts his father after the death of his mother. This turns the story into the portrait of a family, creating a thought-provoking parallel between the two parents.

This one-act alone is more didactic than it needs to be, and Little lacks the experience to carry off so much speechifying. But he establishes a potent relationship with his father, Dann Peterson, who is monstrous in his revulsion, while still capturing the man’s love and pain.

It’s hard to imagine anyone emerging from this simple but very effective performance without more understanding and tolerance.

 

William Randall Beard writes about theater and music.