Los Angeles Theater Review: THE GIRL MOST LIKELY TO (Los Angeles Theatre Center)

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by Tony Frankel on May 15, 2012

in Theater-Los Angeles

A CAPTIVATING GENDER-BENDING STORY

In Michael Premsrirat’s thoroughly engaging The Girl Most Likely To, an unnamed teenage Boy (a winning Tobit Raphael) is, and always has been, in the wrong body. Donning women’s clothes is so natural to him, that he puts on a wig, slips on a skimpy outfit (which shows off his comely young legs), and heads off to school. Because there is no discussion about the possible ramifications of this act, the spectator can safely assume that danger lies ahead for this brave lad. But The Boy’s outcome is not what this play is about. This is no preachy, moralistic, cautionary, coming-of-age tale about the travails of an adolescent  transvestite; it’s a fascinating story in which Premsrirat’s well-drawn characters (both the good and bad guys) grapple with self-awareness and pride.

Tony Frankel’s Los Angeles review of The Girl Most Likely To at LATCThe Boy makes an acquaintance at school with The Girl (Mandela Bellamy), who has troubles of her own. She’s fat, black, overly-opinionated and desperately needy. This unlikely pair doesn’t seem quite compatible, yet they are both in need of an alliance – this is, after all, the bully-infested waters of school (Eric Shulman is quite watchable as the sexy jock/bully; he rounds out his shallow character with an underpinning of self-doubt). The dialogue is so fresh, real and funny that we don’t feel sorry for The Boy, who gloms onto what seems to be a fickle friend (Bellamy needed to show us more pain beneath her sarcastic demeanor so we could relate to The Girl’s harsh antics).

At home, The Boy is castigated by his single-mother (a strong and vulnerable Fran de Leon). Her criticizing stems not from a lack of love, but from her first-hand knowledge that the life of a transvestite is not an easy one. Back in the Philippines, which Li’l Mama left to give her boy better opportunities, her uncle was a drag performer named Mama Cid (the amazing Ramón de Ocampo), and although drag was far more accepted in 1950’s Manila than now in the States, that doesn’t mean your heart can’t be broken by an ill-at-ease American beau (Nicholas Downs).

Tony Frankel’s Los Angeles review of The Girl Most Likely To at LATCJon Lawrence Rivera elicits durable performances from his cast as the action bounces back and forth between The Boy’s life and Mama Cid’s relationship woes in the Phillippines. The turntable that Rivera uses to switch locations is not so successful, however well the beautiful drag performers TeJay McGrath and Matthew Thompson revolve the set. This thrilling new work would do well to have all the modern references (such as The View) trimmed from the script; there is a poetic quality in Premsrirat’s extremely encouraging writing that transcends the need for easy references.

photos by Adam Blumenthal

The Girl Most Likely To
Presented by Playwright’s Arena and The Latino Theater Company (in association with PAE Live!) at the Los Angeles Theatre Center
scheduled to end on May 20
for tickets, call 866.811.4111 or visit http://thelatc.org

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