Leave Me Green, now playing at The Gym At Judson, is a dramedy (heavy on the drama) about a family in transition. The time is 2009 after Proposition 8 passed in California, a state constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage. The place is an apartment building in New York City, where a former soap opera star Rebecca O’Reilly Green lives with her teenage son Gustavo.
Rebecca recently lost her longtime partner Minez who was in the military. Minez was killed in a marketplace bombing, and both Rebecca and Gustavo are mourning her death in their own ways. Rebecca is drinking and losing her temper more than ever, and she is having a harder time taking care of herself and Gustavo, whether it be cooking dinner to making sales at her job as a real estate agent. Gustavo is withdrawing deeper inside himself and occasionally confiding with Myron, a drug dealer and music enthusiast who lives across the hall. He also seeks support from an Alcoholics Anonymous group for teenagers with alcoholic parents or family members. Unfortunately, on the night he attends, there is only one other member, a sweet but damaged girl named Lia. Gustavo and Lia fall for each other quickly, but their romance also brings up long-buried family secrets and changes all of their lives forever.
Leave Me Green is a very different kind of play about marriage equality because its focus is not so much on falling in love or being denied the right to marry. Rather, the focus is on these families that existed before marriage equality and how not being recognized as a married couple can lead to so many problems, both legally and emotionally. Considering the play takes place shortly after Proposition 8 passed, the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy would have still been in place. Minez was probably not out, or at least more careful about who she was open with about her sexuality. Would Rebecca and Gustavo have received any surviving family benefits? Probably not.
There are also signs of the emotional stress on Gustavo from how his mothers are treated. The conversation between him and Lia about Minez is revealing, particularly his need to qualify after the fact that Minez was “like a father” to him, as though his family wouldn’t have been complete otherwise. His feelings of inadequacy about his own family are deeply ingrained, and who can blame him? His mother served a country that did not legally recognize her partner in life and did not offer protections for her family after her death, and now his girlfriend is pushing him to find his biological father. The writing is so smart and subtle in how it shows Lia’s more casual, less malicious homophobia that exists within this larger societal homophobia. Lia might not be intending to reinforce the idea that Gustavo’s family is incomplete, but she is nonetheless.
There is so much going on in the script that I absolutely love besides its commentary on marriage equality. All of the relationships between the four principal characters are really interesting, particularly between Rebecca and Myron and Rebecca and Gustavo. Rebecca’s mysterious ire with Myron is handled well. Sometimes, these big reveals can drag out for too long, but I can see why Rebecca would have problems with Myron even without their shared secret. The chemistry between Rebecca and Gustavo is excellent too, and at times, the parent-teenager dynamic feels uncomfortably real.
While the whole cast is great, the stand-out of the show is Charlotte Booker as Rebecca. She is funny, infuriating, pitiful, and heart-breaking, sometimes all in the same scene. One scene that particularly stood out to me is when she tells the story of how she and Minez first met. She is nearly falling down drunk and talking to a stranger, but the story is sweet and romantic. The next moment, she does something so embarrassing and sad that I wanted to break through the fourth wall and make sure she got home safe. Out of all the characters, Gustavo probably gets the most time on-stage, but Rebecca is the heart of the story and the one who goes through the biggest transformation from beginning to end.
If I had only one small complaint about Leave Me Green, it would be the awkward tampon conversation between Gustavo and Lia. While the corn dog joke is funny, the exchange doesn’t feel genuine and comes off as unnecessary. Otherwise, I absolutely recommend checking out Leave Me Green. The writing is smart, the acting is great, and the finale got me a little teary. With tickets priced at only $18, it is more than worth the money.
Leave Me Green opened March 26 at The Gym At Judson, located at 243 Thompson Street, and will run through April 11. Tickets are $18 and available at the box door or online here.
March 27-29 at 8:00 PM
March 31-April 2 at 8:00 PM
April 8-11 at 8:00 PM
Directions to The Gym At Judson: