“To expect perfection would be rude.”
So says Emily Post, rather unexpectedly, in the groundbreaking, 2016 Jefferson Award-winning new play from Mosaic Theater Company’s second season, Charm. And yes, we are referring to that Emily Post — It is a play about charm school, after all.
But the, in which a gender-fluid LGBTQ community center director named “D” prepares a room for the fabulously inimitable transgender woman Mama Darleena Andrews to teach an evening class on manners and charm, á la Emily Post, to a ragtag group of minorities from all over the LGBTQ spectrum and beyond. Played by real-life gender nonconforming actor/actress B’Ellana Duquesne, “Mama Darlin’s” story is inspired by transgender icon Gloria Allen, and her legacy truly shines in Duquesne’s utterly heartbreaking, impassioned, and ultimately uplifting portrayal.
Charm is a hurricane of emotions, and the opening night crowd laughed, gasped, cheered, and snapped along with the cast as they poured their hearts into their roles and truly became their characters, even as their characters seemed to be learning how to become themselves. And though the play is superficially about charm school, the deeper themes — about conformity and nonconformity, about acceptance and identity and the building of community — are in keeping with Mosaic’s current coming of age series, and with their greater purpose of sparking conversations about social issues and change.
“Can’t you see that I am living history,” asks Mama Darlin, “when I’ve been through what I’ve been through and come out beautiful on the other side?”
It’s heartening to know that there are those who will remember history as beautifully as this and continue to share it, ugly truths and imperfections and all.
*Photos by Stan Barouh
**Charm runs from January 5-29 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center.