By Alec Clayton
Life Is Complicated at Olympia Little Theatre is a play of firsts: a first-time writer and a first-time actor, the best actor in the play in this reviewer’s opinion.
Kendra Malm, OLT board president and artistic and production manager, wrote and directed Life Is Complicated. She had never attempted writing a play but, bound and determined, she got a book about playwriting and set to work. It took her six years to write the play, which was inspired by her own experiences coming out as a trans woman.
Alex Taft was called upon to fill in for Randy Graham in the role of Dave Walsh, younger brother of Chelsea Walsh (Talia Carver), the woman at the center of this story. Taft had never before been on stage and had only a few days to prepare. He was “on book,” hiding the script in a magazine he carried throughout the play. During the first act, it was almost impossible to see him reading, but that became more apparent during Act II. Nevertheless, he never let reading from the script interfere with his performance. Two obvious signs of good acting are never appearing to be acting — immersing oneself in the character and remaining natural — and staying in character even in the background while other actors take the spotlight. Taft managed both of those like a seasoned professional.
After going away to college in Chicago and having gender confirmation surgery, Chelsea returns home as a new person with a new name and gender. Only her mother (Mary Menard) knows, and she’s visibly heartbroken and angry. Chelsea’s best friend Zoe (Dani Gelardi) learns Chelsea is trans and is completely accepting. Chelsea’s new boyfriend, Jordan (Arthur Pinpin), has a somewhat more complicated reaction.
Most of the cast members are either relatively inexperienced or, in the cases of Carver and Gelardi, have returned to acting after a long absence. Pinpin is guilty of overacting — intentionally at times, uncomfortably so in others. Menard, playing Chelsea’s mother who is verbally abusive of her daughter, is also guilty of overacting at times. The remaining actor, James Saxton as Chelsea’s father, is delightful and lovable in a small but crucial role.
In the end, crucial and surprising things about Chelsea’s past are revealed. Life Is Complicated is not a flawless play, but does tell a solid story with strong lessons for people who know little about transgender persons.
Proof of vaccination and masks are required to attend.
Life Is Complicated
7:25 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays,
1:55 p.m. Sundays through July 31
Olympia Little Theatre,
1925 Miller Ave. NE, Olympia