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Herculina/Hercule's Transgender adventures
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Herculina/Hercule's Transgender adventures

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

The Adventures of Herculina
Annex Theatre
Through March 27


The Adventures of Herculina by Kira Obolensky, currently staged by Macha Monkey at Annex Theatre, is based on a true story. Herculina was raised as a girl in the mid-1800s until she was "diagnosed" as a boy at the age of 18. Kira Obolensky wrote the play within the last decade, but based it on this true-life character. Ultimately, this out-of-the-ordinary person ends up in a freak show, not finding anywhere else in life that fits his/her circumstances.

The play, described as a "dark comedy," has some amusing moments. Meghan Derr has the difficult role of Herculina and Hercule. Derr is a compelling actress with a strong presence. She handles the ambiguity of the role with finesse. The play is written to allow her to show much less distress about her situation than it causes other people. Herculina is less worried about her "odd" feelings toward girls than either the girls around her or the adults who supervise.

Most of the cast plays multiple roles. While this helps keep the body count down, it may not be that helpful to the production, as the audience has to keep track of the ever-morphing characters. For most of the first act, Mark Fullerton and Amelia Meckler play a priest and abbess who tend an orphanage of young girls. Lucky for Herculina, they are not the ogres they could be to her, though when her re-genderization happens, they end up removing her from the school. The priest is enamored of Sarah Bernhardt, the famous actress. Later, Meckler plays Bernhardt, who coincidentally bumps into Hercule and gives him lessons on how to be a boy.

Herculina falls in love with a girl, Sara (Allison Strickland), who is alternately bitchy and intrigued by Herculina and seems like she almost could return Herculina's love. When Herculina is sent from the orphanage and Sara is employed with a world-traveling family, Hercule launches an effort to travel the world to find her. The adventures she/he has on that journey comprise the rest of the play. Strickland does a nice job of playing the fickle flirt. Adria LaMorticella plays a jealous orphan, and then a couple of boys. She is fun as the jealous, tattletale orphan, in particular.

The set, by David Gignac, is typically spare, but uses solid wooden tables and small benches to denote school, office, and other locations. Afton Pilkington uses costume design to good effect, especially to help actors change characters with swift costume changes. Director Linda Lombardi keeps the action flowing quickly, which helps keep the audience engaged.

It's probably too absurdist to really expose an accurate historical attitude toward hermaphrodites, but it's fun to see the actors tackle the odd subject and infuse it with a certain acceptance. There are amusing moments of gender exploration, such as when Hercule is taught how to fight or kiss like a man. But the script kind of peters out at the end, without a clear destination, so you're not left with any kind of resolution of the situation. But maybe that's just how life is.

For more information, go to www.machamonkey.org or www.brownpapertickets.com or call 800-838-3006.

Comments on reviews go to sgncritic@gmail.com.

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