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Theater review: 'The Interlopers' at Bootleg Theater

June 23, 2011 |  2:45 pm

Darryl Stephens, Trevor Peterson In "The Interlopers," playwright Gary Lennon retools "Romeo and Juliet" into an affecting, unconventional study of two pre-op transsexuals whose friendship turns to love.  The gambit largely succeeds, with superb performances from leads Diarra Kilpatrick and Trevor Peterson.

When upbeat female-to-male candidate Lou (Kilpatrick) first meets subdued opposite number Michelle (Peterson) at the doctor's office, it's uncertain that they can even share a casual connection. Yet something sparks, and their camaraderie becomes an oasis in the face of family resistance.

Gertie (Tara Karsian), Michelle's mother, has successfully struggled to find compassion for her son.  But Ed (R.D. Call), her hard-nosed husband, threatens the family counselor (Clifford Morts) with violence and kicks the kid out. Things are even scarier for biracial Lou, with a widowed Latino father (Leandro Cano) unable to comprehend why his treasured daughter is going this route.
 
Author Lennon's prime achievement is the grit, humor and suspense he gleans by jumping off from Shakespeare, melodramatic patches negligible against the essential humanity he finds in each character. The vivid Kilpatrick and nuanced Peterson avoid mannerisms, embracing considerable physical and emotional demands without hesitation.

Their colleagues are proficient, though director Jim Fall's extensive film experience sometimes results in audibility issues. Still, if Call and Cano occasionally overdo, they are harrowing, and Karsian and Morts' direct addresses reveal admirable layers. Paul Elia's bisexual Internet date and scene-stealing Darryl Stephens as a fierce drag activist complete the solid cast.

All share author Lennon's devotion to the sorely under-explored subject, which trumps any vagaries of staging or approach. Audiences should leave preconceptions behind -- and bring Kleenex.

-- David C. Nichols

"The Interlopers," Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends July 17. $25. (213) 389-3856 or www.bootlegtheater.org. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Photo: Darryl Stephens, left, and Trevor Peterson. Credit: Ashley West Leonard.

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