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Theater & Dance

Last Chance: See Bobby Steggert in Boy

Last Chance: See Bobby Steggert in Boy

Carol Rosegg

Anna Zieglar’s new drama adds clarity to gender identity.

Bobby Steggert's performance as Adam Turner is a game changer when it comes to theatrical discussions about gender identity. Best know for his roles in Ragtime and Yank!, Steggert is no stranger to visceral productions that affect audiences with ease. In the world premiere of Anna Zieglar's Boy, he nimbly shifts from young girl to grown man with finesse, opening audiences' eyes to a transition not everyone understands.

With "bathroom laws" gaining momentum and people crying out for trans visibility and rights, there is no better time for audiences to experience Ziegler's new drama. In the play, Adam is born Samuel, but a botched circumcision leaves his parents clueless as how to best raise the child. After seeking advice from a specialist in gender identity, Dr. Wendell Barnes, they opt for Samuel to become Samantha through surgery and hormone therapy. As a young adult, Samantha discovers the truth and transitions to Adam Turner.

Adam's journey in Boy is a far-reaching transgender story. "I think what's really interesting is that this story, specifically, can give cisgendered straight people an easier view into what that might be like," says Steggert. "For example, my father who is the straightest man you could ever meet, read the play and said that for the first time he understood what it might be like to be a transgendered person because it pulled from the point of view of a straight male who is asked to be something other than what he is."

Steggert approached the role with a specific framework in mind. "My focus was not on the external. It was really on the internal. I actually think that being a gay man was one of the enormous gifts that allowed me to understand who Adam's character is," Steggert says. "Mind you, he didn't ever feel like a young girl, and so it wasn't so much that I focused on what it was to portray a little girl. I focused on what it was to portray someone who felt stuck in something that they didn't understand, and that they certainly didn't feel safe enough to express."

Because Ziegler purposefully avoids sensationalism with her writing in Boy, which is based on the true story of David Peter Reimer, the cast infused psychological trauma, grit, and raw emotionality with every character choice. This is where Steggert as Adam and Paul Niebanck as Dr. Wendell Barnes excel. They make Ziegler's straightforward play jump to life with performances that complicate and provoke. "This story is about someone who faces almost inconceivable odds on his path towards self acceptance," Steggert says. "And I think it's a really inspiring story."

Keen Company's presentation of Boy runs through April 9 in the Harold Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row (410 West 42nd Street, New York, NY 10036). For tickets and information, please visit

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