Ramble-Ations: A One D'Lo Show
nytheatre.com review by Michael Criscuolo
June 15, 2007
Ramble-Ations: A One D'Lo Show is a delightful showcase for its star and author, Sri Lankan transgender performer D'Lo. Even though she's American born and was raised on hip-hop in Southern California, she remains steeped in her Sri Lankan heritage. This poses a tricky balancing act for D'Lo. She characterizes her family's homeland as a place that's always forgotten, even by its neighbors. Even though it sits right off the coast of India, Sri Lanka firmly refuses to identify with the mainland. And, perhaps most aggravating of all, she gets mistaken for every other ethnicity—from Ethiopian to Filipino—but her own.
But, D'Lo will not be marginalized, despite the many ways society could dismissively pigeonhole her. This genre-busting dynamo, a gay woman who self-identifies as a man, gives audiences a show that insightfully traces her journey towards who she is today.
Part of that journey includes meeting some of the other people in her life. There's her late sister, who died in a plane crash; her spiritual advisor, who implores the bald D'Lo to grow her hair and dress like a girl; her mother, who has learned to accept her unorthodox daughter as is, but still worries that D'Lo may fall victim to a hate crime ("We didn't leave a war-torn country to move here and get killed"); even the reincarnated Gandhi, who sips from a flask while dropping pearls of wisdom.
Most interesting, though, is D'Lo's first-hand account of discovering her sexuality and forging her own place in the world. Her family, thankfully, is presented as quizzically supportive, so she never has that hurtle to jump over. For D'Lo, the struggle for self is internal. Who does she want to be? And how far in which direction does she want to go? She also has a bit of a spiritual crisis as she acknowledges the existence of a higher power, but admits that she doesn't feel it in her soul.
There are many fine moments in Ramble-Ations: her humorous account of being "a dutiful son" to her parents; the inspiration she draws from seeing an unshaven transgender man dressed as a woman on the subway; and video footage of her mother imitating some of the bling-wearing denizens on BET. Throughout, D'Lo displays impressive versatility as she jumps from role to role.
Even at 75 minutes, though, Ramble-Ations errs a bit on the long side. The script as a whole could use a little more focus, and D'Lo's overall presentation could use some judicious tightening. But, there's no denying that she is a warm and talented performer. Her apex comes near the show's conclusion when she answers the question on everyone's mind: does she physically want to become a man? While it would be nice to have a deeper voice and a more masculine appearance, she admits that she is content as is. While in the middle of disrobing for another character transformation, she confesses to us, "I keep this body for the theatre...This stage holds me up like only a woman can." Amen to that.