EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first review in the Teen Critics Program presented by Cry Havoc Theater Company, a group that does original devised and verbatim work with high school students. TheaterJones is partnering on the project, and the best reviews from each performance viewed will be published on TheaterJones. Other reviews will be published on the Cry Havoc site. You can read more about the program here, in our special section devoted to this project.
This following review, which has been edited by TheaterJones editor Mark Lowry, was written by Margot Bason, a sophomore at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. The show is Andi Boi, an original play by Bruce R. Coleman about a transgender teen, performed by Dallas Children's Theater's Teen Scene Players. DCT received a $150,000 grant for this play; you can read more about it in our interview with Coleman and DCT Executive Director Robyn Flatt, here.
Dallas — The LGBTQ+ community is becoming more prominent in the national conversation, but how do we teach tolerance and spread awareness to the youth of our country? The new play Andi Boi, performed at the Dallas Children’s Theater, does just that.
Written by Bruce R. Coleman (who also directs and designed costumes), Andi Boi shows a snapshot in the life of a transgender teen boy attending high school for the first time. He is faced with challenges in the uncertainty of how his teachers, classmates, and their parents will react to his gender identity.
The purpose of this show, which is co-produced with Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and in partnership with First Unitarian Church of Dallas, is to start a conversation and spread awareness to the youth, and in that goal, it succeeds. As for the play itself, the situation and dialogue are presented in a way that they can be easily grasped by most audiences while still letting viewers think about how the characters onstage are handling their first meeting with Andi and the discovery of his gender. There is some strong language sprinkled in — but it does take place in high school, after all.
The teens being portrayed alongside Andi are freshman dealing with their first year of high school, but Andi is returning after being homeschooled in junior high. The friends meet through a mutual love of an app titled “Biddy Beasts,” and later they bond with Andi over the app as well. The purpose of the app doesn’t just act as a story driver, but it also presents a metaphor, for the point of the app is to collect fictional monsters and transform them together into “exactly what they’re meant to be,” as one character tells us. Audience members who download the app (available only on Apple phones) get to see the characters via augmented reality at the end of the play.
These teens, played by Christian Arrubla (as Kai), Wynn Droz (Jeremy), Kadar Wesley Price (Drew), Shy’peria Brown (Hannah), and Zander Pryor, shine in this production. The bond between the quartet of students at the beginning of the show is just like a group of friends should be, as they tease each other throughout the exposition, all played out on Lauren Wheat’s set of a high school hallway, with lockers, bulletin boards, and benches. Then, when they open themselves to Andi it feels like fate — at least when they find out that they all love the same video game.
In addition to facing the uncertainty of how Andi’s classmates will react to him, there is also the theme of how adults receive the news. The show begins with a monologue from a “concerned parent” about the transgender bathroom issue. Performed by actress Catherine Whiteman as Drew’s mother, Mrs. Lewis, her one-sided conversation with a school committee kicks off the show with a bang. For her, it’s one thing to deal with your peers not accepting you, but it doesn’t cross many minds how this issue might be perceived through the parents. The other adults in the show are Lee Jamison as Mrs. Tate, and Jennifer Kuenzer as Andi’s supportive mother, Mrs. Winters. Eventually Mrs. Winters and her son help Mrs. Lewis understand.
Dallas Children’s Theater’s production of Andi Boi takes a serious issue and starts the discussion of acceptance and gender identity for students in their early teens. It shows us the fears that we don’t always think go through our transgender peers’ heads, for high school is a different playing field for them. Go see Andi Boi with a family member or friend, and start the discussion.
» Margot Bason is a sophomore at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts