by Richard Dodds
This review was originally published in the Bay Area Reporter in 2010
There was a recent movie titled It’s Complicated, but I’m sure the complications facing its glossy characters are nothing compared to what the performer known as D’Lo faces everyday. In the exquisite solo show Ramble-Ations at Brava Theatre Center’s intimate second space, the Los Angeles performer takes us on a cultural and gender journey that has never been explored in quite this way.
By way of introduction, D’Lo comes from a Sri Lankan family, a little-understood heritage complicated by the fact that they are part of the Tamil minority defeated recently in a civil war. The family’s cultural background and Hindu faith aren’t exactly in sync with D’Lo’s “I’m gay” announcement, a coming-out that is complicated when, as relatives are getting used to having a lesbian in the family, she further declares that she’s transgendered and identifies as a man.
Directed by Adelina Anthony, Ramble-Ations is much more than a “I’m here, I’m queer, I’m transgendered” manifesto, as D’Lo bravely dives into personal conflictions, humorously (and convincingly) dons female drag to play several characters, and even gives us a slide-show documentation of a her/his childhood evolution from short-haired tomboy to a long-haired feminization under Southern Californian peer pressure to the bouncing, boyish, hip hop-styled persona that first greets us.
D’Lo projects an assurance tempered with deprecation, bemoaning a “Mickey Mouse voice” that belies desires for a masculine image, or describing Sri Lanka as a little nation of alcoholics created from a fart from India’s ass. He plays his own mother in full ethnic attire, who recalls D’Lo’s efforts to turn a childhood Barbie into a Ken doll, and wonders why her daughter can’t at least look like such long-haired lesbians as Rosie O’Donnell and Martina Navratilova.
D’Lo dons a wig and a dress to portray a Valley Girl cousin who speaks at a memorial service for a friend who died in the 2004 tsunami that wiped out 35,000 Sri Lankans, but did nothing to unite the ethnically torn country. A scene in which D’Lo plays a tottering grandfather with a Gandhi fixation, but who curses like a sailor, highlights just what a nimble physical comedian he can be.
The 60-minute show never strays far from a laugh, but the reality of a simmering racial, gender, and cultural diaspora is also ready to emerge at any moment. That D’Lo does not profess to have yet sorted out all the complications turns out to be a big strength of Ramble-Ations .
Ramble-Ations will run at Brava Theatre Center through April 3. Tickets are $15-$25. Call 647-2822 or go to www.brava.org.