Review: ‘To T, or Not to T’ alchemizes an internal saga and family drama into a moving comedy

The comedian, actor and playwright D'Lo is seated and draped in orange cloth.
The comedian, actor and playwright D’Lo at his solo show rehearsal ‘To T, or Not To T?’
(Emily Monforte / For The Times)

We tell each other stories about the past to learn about each other and the world we live in. It’s so basic, yet so powerful. Who would any of us be without the tales that were handed down by our parents and grandparents? How can we ever understand one another without hearing about the histories of our neighbors and teachers and friends?

The more human experience we take in, the more compassionate we tend to become. It’s hard to judge someone who has confided personal struggles. Venturing beyond our clans is how civilization developed. It’s human work, which is to say it’s deeply political.


In “To T, or Not to T? A Comedic Trans Journey through (T)estosterone and Masculinity,” D’Lo, a Tamil Sri Lankan American actor, writer, comic and cultural worker, tells his story of coming to terms with his identity as a trans man. This is a coming-out story, meaning it’s both an internal saga and a family drama. Emotion, recollected in tranquility, is alchemized into touching comedy.

D'Lo stands onstage.
D’Lo performs at the rehearsal for his solo show ‘To T, or Not To T?’ on a Friday evening at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City.
(Emily Monforte/For The Times)

D’Lo grew up with his sister in Lancaster, two “dark brown Hindu kids going to Baptist schools in the High Desert of Southern California.” Their doctor father, whom they call Appa, was considered a “desirable immigrant.” D’Lo places the phrase in audible quotation marks, painfully aware that their emotionally reticent dad “struggled in America as a brown man.”

Amma, D’Lo’s mother, was an artist. But D’Lo identified with Appa, despite not being particularly interested in the sciences. “You two are exactly the same,” Amma says. “It’s like they really say, ‘The same two coins on the same one side.’ Complete headache.”

Standing on a set that’s an explosion of the color orange and taking occasional swigs from a flask, D’Lo sketches all the characters with a light and loving touch. He traces his path from a childhood reluctance to wearing dresses to a discomfort with the changes of puberty to a slow acceptance that the tomboy phase wasn’t just a phase.


Language, in this LGTBQ cultural desert, isn’t available. Like many people who have to search far beyond the home to discover fundamental aspects of themselves, D’Lo found connection and clues in the lesbian scene, identifying first as bisexual super fan of Queen Latifah, then queer, before discovering others who were embarking on their own trans journeys.

D'Lo kneels and looks at a projection on the wall onstage.
D’Lo’s solo show, a production that draws from elements of performance art, comedy and theater, involves projections onstage.
(Emily Monforte/For The Times)

We know “To T, or Not to T?” has a happy ending, because it begins at D’Lo’s 2015 commitment ceremony to his partner, two months after starting testosterone therapy. (Which is why, he jokes, that he sounds like an auto-tuned Drake.) But the show is capacious enough to incorporate the tragedy of D’Lo’s sister‘s death in a plane accident.

Honest coming-out stories recognize that life isn’t defined by single milestones in personal identity. That is why this show is the second part of a trilogy covering queer rites of passage. To judge from my own experience — and the evidence of this show — that process is never-ending. The projections by Meena Murugesan bring this psychology to life by creating a shadow of D’Lo’s inner child that’s perpetually in motion.

This Los Angeles LGBT Center production, directed and dramaturgically developed by Adelina Anthony, is presented by Center Theatre Group at the Kirk Douglas Theatre as part of this year’s annual Block Party. (Sacred Fools Theater Company’s production of “The Art Couple,” another local intimate theater offering scheduled to be part of the Block Party lineup, was canceled.)


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The larger showcase extends the reach of D’Lo’s communal artistry, which blends comedy with educational outreach. Having just seen Hannah Gadsby’s latest stand-up show, “Body of Work,” I couldn’t help being aware of how “To T, or Not to T?” was more of a hybrid piece, existing in a fluid theatrical space, not quite stand-up, not quite performance art.

The energy of the show at Wednesday’s opening seemed mild at times, as though D’Lo didn’t exactly know his audience and was hesitant to put pedal to the metal. D’Lo tells a story about a “Super Aunty,” who cautioned him at the commitment ceremony, “You can get drunk, ah? But don’t play the fool.”

Perhaps the Douglas gave off some Super Aunty vibes. But this larger-than-life female figure with her sari blowing in the wind like a superhero’s cape facilitated the bridging of disparate communities. D’Lo recounts looking at the assembled guests and seeing his Tamil Sri Lankan family and queer, trans, BIPOC family “loving up on each other.”

The show ends with a video of D’Lo’s Appa delivering his wedding speech. Having tragically lost one child, he’s not prepared to lose another. Pronouns can still trip him up, but he understands that fueling D’Lo’s journey is the same fundamental question posed by Hamlet: “To be, or not to be.”

'To T, or Not To T? A Comedic Trans Journey through (T)estosterone and Masculinity'

Where: Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City
When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays. Ends July 10. (Call for exceptions.)
Tickets: $30-$75 (subject to change)
Info: (213) 628-2772 or
Running time: 1 hour and 20 minutes with no intermission
COVID Protocol: Proof of full vaccination is required. Masks are required at all times. (Check website for changes.)