“Southern Comfort is based on Kate Davis’s remarkable 2001 documentary of the same name. It followed the final year in the life of Robert Eads, a female-to-male transgender man who found love with his “chosen family” of other transgender folks in rural Georgia even has hospital after hospital refused to treat his ovarian cancer until it was too late.
The Public’s Anspacher Theater, with its steeply raked audience that focuses the audience up close and personal on the action unfolding on the stage, is the perfect setting for this beautiful and heartfelt show, which has been in the works for several years. Annette O’Toole (The Kennedys Of Massachusetts, Smallville), with a Colonel Sanders goatee and halting gait, plays Eads with lingering, unself-conscious affection and grace, and she is matched in those qualities by the rest of the cast, notably Jeffrey Kuhn as Jackson, the outcast former girl whom Robert has raised as his own son, and Jeff McCarthy as Lola, Robert’s strapping, still closeted lover. The story is given added depth and power by Jackson’s decision to undergo phalloplasty despite Robert’s angry opposition.
The book and lyrics by Dan Collins and music by Julianne Wick Davis are of a piece with the story and include several gems. They songs are played by a bluegrass band whose members also take on roles. James Fenton’s setting is lovely, anchored by the dominating trunk and metallic branches of what we soon realize is Robert’s family tree. It’s a beautiful show; bring the family.”