Students come out for play
An audience of about 60 gathered to see and hear a nonstop tale of a coming-out journey Thursday in the Houston Room of the University Center for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center’s production of “Out Comes Butch” in honor of Nation Coming Out Day.
“Butch,” written by David Schoen and performed by Frederick Mead, is a story of one person’s journey of self-discovery through varying stages of life as a transgender man.
It’s a program involving constant monologue, light comedy, on-the-fly costume changes and a touch of risqué humor.
Mead puts on a great performance in what’s essentially a one-hour talk-a-thon, complete with constant voice changes and seemingly improvised audience interaction.
He starts the show emerging from behind the audience, catching everyone off-guard, and the action doesn’t stop there.
He shows boundless energy, rarely stumbles and never stops having fun — especially with the audience.
There are some uncomfortable moments in the production, particularly when Mead dresses in little more than lingerie during the costume change from the gay man to the transgender woman. Audiences may find the scene regarding the sexual reassignment surgery graphic as well.
The story begins with the only portrayed character, Butch, a construction worker during the 1950s, who uses the audience as a sound board for a litany of complaints in a very casual tone — almost he’s speaking to a friend over coffee.
He complains about his wife not doing housework or taking care of the children, refusing intimacy and boasting about his role as breadwinner in typical chauvinist fashion.
As a redneck character, Mead establishes many themes and personality traits, which repeat in various forms for each stage of Butch’s transformation.
On the surface, Butch is a jerk — a very unlikable character who only manages to change who he is on the outside, but the core of his character remains the same.
The audience will feel sympathy for Butch as he tries hard to find love and a place in the world but can’t get past personality limitations.
The script was written in the ’70s, and the comedy is full of stereotypical jokes not normally seen in today’s age of political correctness.
The writing has flaws. Butch does not have any real conflict with the choices he makes and never seems to take and time to reflect. Each of his jovial characters seem almost trivial.
According to Mead, Schoen wrote the performance at a time when there was no LGBT community and people who didn’t identify with heterosexuality were labeled as “gay” — even women.
It seems that Schoen never considered bisexuality as a major transition of sexual orientation: Butch jumps from being a straight man to gay man with one night of passion and abandons his attraction to women, only to pick it up again after his reassignment surgery.
There’s no conflict with his new attraction to men and women, and he immediately embraces his newfound bisexuality.
If any suggestion could be made to Schoen, perhaps the story line should be updated to include Butch going through more transitions throughout the sexuality continuum, especially bisexuality.