Directed by Carolyn Ladd
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
Monica Bauer’s one-woman show “The Year I Was Gifted” deals with the heartfelt and endearing themes of loyalty, integrity, survival, and perseverance. It also highlights what occurs when the antitheses of these themes prevail in any segment of the human community and, particularly, in LGBT community and its community of authentic supporters.
In “The Year I Was Gifted,” the fifteen year old wrong-side-of-Omaha, Nebraska’s-tracks narrator needs to “get out of Dodge” before its cattle-slaughtering milieu not only breaks her spirit but breaks her heart. It is not important whether this narrator is the young Ms. Bauer (one assumes the piece is autobiographical) or another aspiring thespian: what is important is this young woman’s story transcends race, gender, socio-economic and sexual status boundaries.
The narrator decides, at her wealthy high school friend’s suggestion, to apply to the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy boarding high school in northern Michigan for the remainder of her high school education. Although she lacks all the prerequisites to be accepted (academic and financial), she forges ahead and through a trinity of prevarication, perseverance, and puck achieves admission to and transport to this chance to escape oasis and “find her tribe.”
Unfortunately, the narrator’s escape from mediocrity gets sidetracked by her integrity: while at Interlochen, she discovers the Head of the school is summarily expelling gay young men and sending them back to lives of being bullied and broken. With the support of her “first best friend,” her first gay friend, she composes “Expulsion 34,” a piece that exposes the homophobia of the school’s leader and garners her the reward of losing her scholarship and her return to her adoptive parents who have lied to her all her life and did their best to quench her spirit.
“The Year I Was Gifted” is a remarkable and enjoyable examination of the strength of the human spirit and the grace that ensures when one refuses to betray members of one’s adoptive tribe. Be sure to see this distinguished play before it heads west to Edinburgh.