Eric(a): A Review

Playwright Matthew Ivan Bennett’s Eric(a) invites its audience into the life of Eric, a trans man searching for love and confidence in a world that has denied him those experiences. It is a seventy-minute, one-person show that Teresa Sanderson executes perfectly, and I can’t recommend it enough. The show is running Thursday through Sunday until March 10 at Salt Lake City’s Plan B Theater Company.

*Spoiler Alert*

Eric(a) begins with Eric hesitantly taking the stage at a conference on male trans identity. He is fifty-plus years old and came out three years prior to the conference. He’s taking the “Big T” and contemplating phalloplasty after ending a marriage of twenty-five years and losing contact with one of his two daughters, and his grandchild. He begins by telling us that he is guilty of the gravest sin in the trans community: lacking self-confidence. He tells the us he’s a coward, but five minutes in, and all of the audience knew that we just met one of the bravest people ever written into existence.

He stands in front of a podium and pulls out his essay, “Living Trans: An Intellectual Defense of Trans Experience” that he has been invited to share. The audience is provided with a copy of his outline and told to read bullet points throughout the experience, but we quickly realize that the actual content of his speech will be about Addie, a woman he recently met and fell in love with.

He met Addie at a local club and “passed,” something that brings him immeasurable joy, but he doesn’t tell Addie about his trans identity until a month has passed, and now she won’t speak to him. My friend and I sat next to an empty seat that was reserved for the fictional Addie. Eric explains that he invited her to the show. By the end of the play I was crying, wishing someone would walk in and take the seat next to my friend.

I was crying and wishing that Eric’s mother didn’t force him to wear pastel dresses everyday; that his daughter would talk to him; that the boys at school didn’t question whether he is a boy and ask him to see his penis (to which he cried, “It’s still growing!”).

I cried because the presence or absence of a penis doesn’t make you a man, and the presence or absence of a vagina doesn’t make you a woman. I wish everyone believed in bullet point number nine, “our sense of self, our identity, takes input from biology, culture, and from our selves.”

Eric(a) is an amazing story whether you are a gender studies major or someone who doesn’t have a clue what the term cisgendered means (don’t worry, Eric gives you a definition). The experiences in Bennett’s play are not representative of every trans person, and I feel like I should acknowledge that here. (Eric identifies within the gender binary, appears able-bodied, is white, and heterosexual.) His story is powerful and by the time the lights come up, you’ll forget that you were watching Teresa Sanderson, and you’ll clap for a man named Eric.

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