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Review: L.A. LGBT Center opens its Garage Theatre with a pointedly political tale

Coretta Monk in the Garage Theatre production of "March" at the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
(Garage Theatre)

It’s fittingly named Garage Theatre: a series of live shows presented with COVID-19 protocols in the parking garage of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center. The setup allows for an audience of 16 cars surrounding a square “stage” for the first production, the new play “March,” conceived and directed by Jon Lawrence Rivera.

The play — a coproduction with Playwrights’ Arena, where Rivera is artistic director — takes place 25 years in the future, in the midst of a pandemic. An authoritarian government is seeking out trans and gender-nonconforming people, and individuals are forced to dress according to the gender norms of their birth sex.

The play’s premise is stirring, the world imagined here feeling not too far off from the harmful actions that the Trump administration has taken against trans people and the continued violence that the trans community faces.

The three main characters — Sydney (MJ Brown/Miss Barbie-Q), Lavinia (Amir Levi) and Mary (Coretta Monk) — have back stories that are vivid and compelling. Sydney battles discrimination and struggles to find a job because of her past drug addiction. Mary is often mistaken for a sex worker, and Lavinia details the verbal assault of the workplace and the toll that takes. The characters convey pain that’s seen and felt.

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These performances prove the power of “March” despite the fuzzy plot of the play, whose script was developed as an exercise involving all of the actors. The pandemic the characters are living through is vague, and for the most part, how it affects the trans community remains underexplained. Monologues by the three protagonists take up a significant early portion of the 45-minute production, leaving a rush of action toward the end. A moment of magical realism feels like it comes out of nowhere, a deus ex machina of an ending.

But the dialogue, though sometimes stilted, does make an impact. And even if you wish for a more structured plot and a longer, fuller story for these characters, what you do see is still memorable, the message of “March” still poignant.

'March'

Where: Los Angeles LGBT Center, 1118 N. McCadden Place, L.A. Audience members must stay in cars during the show and listen to audio transmitted through the radio. Masks required (for speaking to attendants and for use if you go to the restroom).

When: 7:30 and 9 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays, through Nov. 15

Tickets: $20 per car

Info: lalgbtcenter.org or eventbrite.com/e/march-tickets-121093851971

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