The indelible image of Bradford Louryk as Christine Jorgensen is forever marked in my memory as one of the most fascinating pieces of acting I have ever witnessed. Perfectly lip-syncing to the original 51 minute, LP recorded 1958 interview, with tough questions being put forth on what appears to be a black and white kinescope, on a period television set, by Mr. Russell (an equally impressive Rob Grace), Bradford Louryk word by word, pause by pause and inflection by inflection summons up the very colorful first ever American transsexual. It is astonishing.
Not only performance wise but in the content delivered by the actual Christine Jorgensen. She is honest, outspoken, witty, smart, philosophical and most importantly courageous. This was the 1950’s and such things were not discussed let alone written about. Christine Jorgensen made headlines. She became famous and rich by trading in her GI garb for glamorous evening gowns, performing in night clubs with her trademark song “Welcome to my World”.
Striking in its simplicity, the recording studio set by Wilson Chin is without fault. As the television set comes to life with vintage newspaper headlines and photos of little George Jorgensen with his big ears and footage of her post operative arrival at Idlewild Airport in 1953 as the beautiful, blonde Christine Jorgensen where she was greeted “by the largest throng of photographers, reporters and news crews ever gathered in one spot to date” we are at once transfixed and transported back in time.
When Christine arrives in the studio with her fur stole and ultra chic outfit by Mary Ping looking a bit like Joan Crawford and Marlene Dietrich, with her perfectly painted nails and perfectly coifed hairdo (Jason P. Hayes) we are in the presence of someone very special. Then she speaks. It is the actual voice of Christine. Bradford is lip-syncing. The concentration and focus is phenomenal. Even to voice overlaps with her interviewer. Even to his nails tapping on the arm of her director’s seat. Every nuance is there. His facial expressions, his animated and expressive hands are the only movements used. He is poised and confident, compassionate and charming as Christine. It’s a mesmerizing performance sensitively directed by Josh Hecht.
We learn the reasons why he did what he felt he had to do in order not to lead half of a life. That he had to become a she. How he had his ears fixed along with other parts of his body. How talking about it might help others dealing with similar feelings. How she managed with her supportive family and dealt with the odd questions raised by her nieces. The curiosity seekers. The hateful letters. The hormones.
If she hadn’t had the surgery? She would have gone on existing, but “I would hardly have gone on living” and we wouldn’t be privy to one of the most illuminating, riveting theatrical events that simply has to be seen to be believed. At The Lion Theatre. Tickets $48.00 www.Ticketcentral.com www.christinereveals.com