Presented by ArtsEmerson
Written & performed by Travis Alabanza
Produced by Hackney Showroom
Directed by Sam Curtis Lindsay
Movement by Nando Messias
Dramaturgy by Nina Lyndon
April 13 – 23, 2022
Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theater
ArtsEmerson on Facebook
Review by Noe Kamelamela
Content warning: gender-based violence and transphobia are discussed in this review and also in BURGERZ.
BOSTON, Mass. –In the time before the COVID pandemic started here in the States, the danger of being visibly queer felt risky and fun to me, heading to the strip mall eager to anger gender essentialists a bit like poking caged bears, a way to appease my past teenaged, quieter, closeted self. I was armed with keen attention to exits and entrances, always ready to leave. I would relate scenes to friends about children asking me what it was to be different. Or people – rude people, very rude – being weird to me about what bathroom I went to, regardless of whatever I wore or which bathroom I used it was always wrong.
I would joke as cheerily as possible when safe, portray myself as always perfectly fine afterwards, not my heart racing or feeling a bit sick, as clearly all right because I was still around and clearly talking calmly to someone, not crying in a corner, not letting it get to me. Most of the time, friends and acquaintances would sit there, horrified I know now, and occasionally chuckle, but mostly they did not know what to say. It can be hard to explain how painful isolation, cruelty and name-calling can feel. It can be easier to tell a story.
I related, as the youths say, so hard to the transphobic experiences Travis Alabanza relayed during the hour and a half of our shared experience of “BURGERZ.” I use the word shared because immediately after the proverbial curtain rose as a group of butts in seats we noticed each other which is something I do not often experience in theater spaces. It was healing for me to absorb Alabanza’s experiences of gender-based violence as necessary truth and also witness people around me struggle to understand. I believed, given collective reactions, that the crowd around me were adding half-formed questions to lists where there may have previously existed ineffable emotions or nothing at all.
Travis Alabanza is an arresting performer. At times, they took up the role of presenter and host with a wink and a smile. Also just as capably, they leaned into shifts in music and lighting to devastate my fellow spectators with a virtuosic monologue. The connection between the stage and the audience crackled, fizzled, remained fluid as Alabanza worked us towards the show’s conclusion.
BURGERZ closes in Boston on April 24th. Hackney Showroom can be contacted for booking enquiries.
Note by Queen Kitty Drexel
You don’t have to understand a person to respect them. You don’t have to know them to offer them compassion. You can be kind to strangers who are different from you for no other reason than it is a good idea.
Also a good a idea: purchasing the play script after the show! BURGERZ is sold after the performance for $10 (cash only). In the UK, you can buy the script at the bar with your glass of wine, or beer, or thimble of port. I wish the US did this. (UK licensing and publishing laws are different from the US.) It’s also sold by Oberon Books online.