Timing is everything. And the time for The Mosaic Theater Company’s season 2 opener, Charm is now. Starring the charismatic B’Ellana Duquesne as ‘Mama Darleena,’ and directed by Natsu Onoda Power, the two-hour and 20 minute long play explores the struggles faced by youth navigating their sexuality—from transgender to gay and a cisgendered couple. Against the backdrop of an etiquette class taught by Mama Darleena, an African-American transgender woman, the group laughs, cries, loves and hates, running the gamut of emotions and emotional struggles of trying to be ‘you’ in a world that says you or your kind don’t fit.
In the age of screens—TV screens, mobile screens, big screens—it’s easy to forget that once upon a time, the best way to enjoy stories was in real life, on the stage. From the opening scene when Mama strides onto the screen, the very definition of charm and etiquette, there is a tinge of bittersweet as your both admire her elegance and wonder what it took for her to stride a world that is hostile to members of the LGTBQ community, as they go about their daily lives.
Mama’s relentless effort to ‘school’ her class on the rules of proper behavior (according to her) finally breaks through as the group begins to appreciate and even enjoy their newly acquired manners. As new and unlikely friendships are formed, lives that sometimes seem like a constant battle—for survival, for dignity, for simple acceptance—are touched with a tinge of warmth. Somehow, with her easy elegance and gentle determination, Mama helps the group work through their struggles of identity, poverty and prejudice, all the while guiding them gently to see life as a beautiful journey, not a constant battle.
Together, Mama and her students bond as they discover and define what charm means to each of them and enjoy the mutual respect it inspires in their individual and collective lives.
It’s not too late for a bit of Charm. The show runs until January 29.
January 5-29, 2017