At a time when highly sensationalized stories of gender transition, such as that of Caitlyn Jenner, fill the daily gossip columns, Would You Still Love Me If… does well to explore the complex emotional realities in the kind of postmodern relationship in which traditional structural binaries like male/female begin to break down, as they do in this new play written by John S. Anastasi and directed by Kathleen Turner, who also has a starring role. The story revolves around Danya, played by Sofia Jean Gomez, and Addison, played by Rebecca Brooksher, a loving lesbian couple in their late 20’s who are on the verge of adopting a child. Tension develops, however, as Danya reveals to her mother, played by Turner, and Addison that she has her whole life identified as a man and has begun to pursue the necessary medical steps to become one. The cast is rounded out by Roya Shanks, who plays Dr. Gerard, a woman referred to as the “Michelangelo” of sex-change operations, and whose involvement begins to move beyond a professional involvement.
An evenly balanced approach to the characters allows for the effects of transition on individuals and relationships to be examined from a variety of perspectives, and the play offers an intimate probing into the changing dynamics of these relationships. There are many interesting questions raised about identity, sexuality, and what we talk about when we talk about love. As Danya becomes Daniel, the way that sexuality and gender is a major defining factor of one’s identity is brought to the forefront; it is illustrated that a person cannot deny their gender identification and still be the same person or a happy person. The sad and difficult part about this, though, is that when a person in a relationship transitions, they may potentially be asking their partner to change their sexual identity at the cost of their own happiness. This story shows that there is a particular kind of love that is shaped in part by gender and sexuality and that love may be altered if these are altered, heartbreaking as that may be.
Serious as these themes are, there is much humor that comes out of the dialogue, and a genuine and touching sweetness, particularly between Danya and her mother, though their relationship will be strained to the breaking point. The actors all deliver their lines strongly and articulately, even if at times the performances are a bit too quick and careful. For such an emotionally driven narrative, the actors seem at times to be hiding behind their lines and a slower, more vulnerable pace would not be amiss. The coda, also, is slightly contrived, but, overall, Would You Still Love Me If… is an insightful and accessible attempt to present very complicated feelings and ideas fairly, without being politically pointed or preachy.