"Becoming a Man" - by P. Carl - American Repertory Theater (Cambridge, MA.) - REVIEW

(Cover Photo: Elena Hurst as "Lynette" and Susan Rome as "Janice" in a scene from "BECOMING A MAN" by P. Carl now playing at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA. through March 10, 2024. Photo Credit: Nile Scott Studios and Maggie Hall)


By Kevin T. Baldwin

METRMAG Reviewer

# 774-242-6724

“Polly Kathleen Carl. What parts of her can I keep?” 

                                                                       - P. Carl  

American Repertory Theater

Presents P. Carl's


World-Premiere Play!   

Written by P. Carl 

Directed by Diane Paulus and P. Carl   

Cast Includes: Petey Gibson as “Carl,” Justiin Davis as “Eddie & Others,” Christopher Liam Moore as “Carl’s Father & Others,” Susan Rome as “Carl’s Mother & Others,” Stacey Raymond as “Polly,” Elena Hurst as “Lynette,” Cody Sloan as “Nathan.” Understudies: Cody Sloan as “Carl, Eddie & Others;” Paul Tavianini as “Carl’s Father & Others;” Rebecca Mozo as “Carl’s Mother & Others, Lynette;” Rachel Towne as “Polly;” Adam Plant as “Nathan.”

Additional Creative Team:

Scenic Design - Emmie Finckel; Costume Design - Qween Jean; Lighting Design - Cha See; Music & Sound Design - Paul James Prendergast; Video Design - Brittany Bland; Fight Director - Ted Hewlett; Intimacy Coordinator - Kayleigh Kane; Casting Director - X Casting / Victor Vazquez, CSA; Associate Director - Lyam B. Gabel; Production Stage Manager - Genevieve Kersh. Fight Captain - Susan Rome   Assistant Stage Manager - Rachel Zucker;  Dramaturg - Ryan McKittrick;  Hair, Makeup & Wig Designer - Rachel Padula-Shufelt;  Associate Scenic Designer - Miguel Urbino; Associate Costume Designer - Ryan Wilbat; Assistant Lighting Designer - Piper Phillips; Associate Video Designer - Nitsan Scharf; Assistant to the Playwright and Script Supervisor - Annabeth Lucas;  Video Programmer/Engineer - Devin Kinch;  Production Assistants - Molly Bercutt, Morgen Doyle, Janie Hillman, Pat-rice Rooney, Lou Williams; Physical Therapists - Artistic Athlete, Health Collective.

The actors and stage managers employed in this production are members of Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States. 

Loeb Drama Center   


February 16, 2024 through March 10, 2024

(Contact Box Office for Exact Times) 

The American Repertory Theater at Harvard University  (A.R.T.)

Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Four-play subscriptions are now on sale to A.R.T. supporters and will be available to renewing subscribers and the general public in June. 

Visit AmericanRepertoryTheater.org/Subscribe for more information.  

Throughout 2023/24, A.R.T. will:

  • Partner with the Harvard Office for Gender Equity to be in dialogue around the themes of A.R.T.’S  programming and evolve A.R.T.’s organizational culture;
  • Continue to develop Essential Questions that will drive artistic exploration and audience engagement opportunities around each production;
  • Continue to collaborate with Artists for Humanity, a Boston-based non-profit that provides teens the keys to self-sufficiency through paid employment in art and design, engaging AFH teens to create art inspired by the Essential Questions
  • Offer the public opportunities to engage with new works in development, including an October reading of "The Odyssey" by Kate Hamill (Sense & Sensibility). Additional details will be announced in the coming weeks.

Additional programming and initiatives will be announced at a later date. 

Season support is provided by Harvard University, The Barr Foundation, The Bob and Alison Murchison New Work Development Fund, The Shubert Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Massachusetts Cultural Council, Barton & Guestier, and Meyer Sound.


Contact Venue for Most Updated COVID-19 Safety Protocols and Information.

Igniting discussions of all kinds, for sure, American Repertory Theater (ART) has staged an inventive and deeply touching drama, "BECOMING A MAN," a story that strikes a chord deep within its audience from the very moment it begins.

Some elements contained within this story, like "self acceptance" and "self love," I hope are ideas we can all understand and get behind, can't we?

This is a story of one person's emotional and physical journey which impacts every other person in their life, bringing those loved ones along for the transformational odyssey - whether they want to come along or not.

The questions then become: "Who am I in this equation?" and "Who were they?"

(Photo: Cody Sloan as "Nathan" and Petey Gibson as "Carl" in a scene from "BECOMING A MAN" by P. Carl now playing at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA. through March 10, 2024. Photo Credit: Nile Scott Studios and Maggie Hall)

As presented in P. Carl's "BECOMING A MAN," under the fabulous co-direction by Diane Paulus and P. Carl, what we witness is the odyssey of "Carl" (formerly known as "Polly") as it bounces back and forth in time.

Carl (Petey Gibson) is a funny, outgoing middle-aged man, embracing his recent gender metamorphosis from "lesbian," a term he admits to never fully embracing, to a trans man.  

Gibson is thoroughly captivating as Carl, now trying to live and enjoy life as a man, connecting and seemingly thriving in all things masculine, almost to the point of conceit, even admiring some degree of "toxic masculinity."

Conversely, though, Carl is also a bit unsure about this chosen path, experiencing an unusual set of "growing pains" - a difficulty most evident when sharing this newfound thriving with wife, Lynette (Elena Hurst), who identifies as a lesbian and has never been attracted to men - yet now is married to one.

As Lynette, Hurst is equally funny and effervescent, yet also showcasing the deep, emotional angst that came with a life-altering (or, from Carl's perspective, a "life correcting") decision...a decision not discussed with Lynette. 

I cannot even do laundry or go shopping without first consulting with my spouse. 

Imagine this. 

Lynette loves Carl, but recalls marrying Carl when Carl was still "Polly." 

Lynette is also not thrilled with having to "pass as a straight couple" when they had a lesbian wedding and Lynette still considers being personally attracted to women.

(Photo: Stacey Raymond as "Polly" and Petey Gibson as "Carl" in a scene from "BECOMING A MAN" by P. Carl now playing at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA. through March 10, 2024. Photo Credit: Nile Scott Studios and Maggie Hall)

As time flashes back over the course of Polly and Carl's symbiotic journey, Polly (played by Stacey Raymond in a fabulous performance) is there, acting as a conscience to Carl - A reminder of the many truths Carl has seemingly suppressed over the two plus years it has taken in their journey "BECOMING A MAN."

We also meet Carl's parents, wonderfully portrayed by Christopher Liam Moore as "Carl’s Father" and Susan Rome as “Carl’s Mother." The two actors also play other characters within the play with great diversity.

Rome also gives an exceptional performance as Carl's therapist who seems deeply in tune with Carl's ongoing struggle not to feel guilty but cannot understand why nobody can seem to see him for who he is now.

Rounding out the cast are Justiin Davis playing “Eddie” and other characters and Cody Sloan who is featured marvelously as "Nathan," the only other person understanding Carl's journey and struggles. 

Although, Nathan isn't experiencing life "on the other side" in the same testosterone-infused way that Carl seems to be experiencing it.

Carl wants family and wife Lynette to feel that same level enjoyment as Carl begins living life as a man.

Yet, Carl cannot see that there might be some resistance by loved ones who might find themselves still grieving over what they perceive is the loss or death of "Polly."

(Photo: Christopher Liam Moore as "Carl’s Father" and Petey Gibson as "Carl" in a scene from "BECOMING A MAN" by P. Carl now playing at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA. through March 10, 2024. Photo Credit: Nile Scott Studios and Maggie Hall)

The overall visual design approach for "BECOMING A MAN" by the ART is a clever, engrossing visceral experience.

The odyssey of love and acceptance of ourselves. The journey of love and acceptance by those we love. If they are bridges to cross, they are difficult for some, for sure. 

The harsh reality is that love is NOT always unconditional and trying to make it that way can cause some to break from bending too far.

The various conflicts and conversations carried throughout the story pertaining to "BECOMING A MAN" should make everyone watching question "at what point will this no longer be confusing?" 

Confusing, at least to the point of "crisis," anyway.

Thankfully, the performances by everyone in the "BECOMING A MAN" cast do not lapse into stereotypes of those who can or cannot understand what Carl is going through. 

Of what "Carl is.

(Photo: Elena Hurst as "Lynette" and Susan Rome as "Janice" in a scene from "BECOMING A MAN" by P. Carl now playing at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA. through March 10, 2024. Photo Credit: Nile Scott Studios and Maggie Hall)

For so many going through this type of an emotional journey, is there that hope we, as a society, can get to the point where we can help see to it that this confusion for them DOES NOT GET to "crisis mode" - to prevent it from being life threatening and we lose so many wonderful people as a result?

I am not qualified to answer that. I simply hold onto the hope that we can. 

Can each of us, ourselves, accept those who choose to embrace something we might never be emotionally capable of understanding? 

Can we concede that if their choice makes them feel more alive and complete as a person as a result, this can only be a positive? 

CAN we do the above? Or is that the aforementioned bridge too far for some to cross?

Unfortunately, I am also not qualified to answer that one, either. All I can do is echo what Lin Manuel Miranda once said:

"Love is love is love is love is love is love is love."

There will be many similar conversations that audiences will engage in upon exiting the theatre after seeing the enthralling and enlightening "BECOMING A MAN" by the ART

As long as the conversation continues, I will continue to believe there is hope.

Coming up next for American Repertory Theater will be the premiere of the musical, "GATSBY" by Florence Welch, Thomas Bartlett, Martyna Majok directed by Tony Award-winner Rachel Chavkin ("Hadestown") and choreography by Tony Award-winner Sonya Tayeh ("Moulin Rouge"), beginning May 25th, 2024

For more information, visit https://americanrepertorytheater.org/shows-events/gatsby/.

Approximately one hour and 50 minutes with no intermission, including a 20-minute Act II discussion

Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) 




“Jolting, honest, passionate, and beautifully written.” — Claudia Rankine on P. Carl’s memoir, Becoming a Man  

When we change, can the people we love come with us?

For fifty years, P. Carl lived as a girl and then a queer woman, building a career and a loving marriage while waiting to realize himself in full. 

When he decides to affirm his gender at a pivotal political moment in America, his transition puts everything—family, career, friendships—at stake. 

“BECOMING A MAN”  is adapted from P. Carl’s acclaimed memoir and co-directed by P. Carl and Diane Paulus. 

“BECOMING A MAN”  is a story about the courage—and the community—we need to become ourselves.  
This production contains brief physical violence, discussions of suicidal ideation, transphobic language, sounds and images of war, and haze. Recommended for ninth grade and up.   



The American Repertory Theater at Harvard University is dedicated to expanding the boundaries of theater, always including the audience as a partner. 


We focus on the research and development of groundbreaking theatrical experiences that catalyze dialogue and transformation. We believe that by engaging our hearts, minds, and bodies, theater has the power to heal and imagine collective pathways forward. We commit to advancing public health in our practice and our programming, recognizing that racism in America is a national public health crisis. Our new home in Allston will be a breathable and healthy building envisioned as a town hall for the twenty-first century. Inspired by the model of a teaching hospital, the building will be a vibrant center for research, experiential pedagogy, and performance. We build community with our audiences, artists, students, staff, and neighbors across Greater Boston, embracing theater’s power to cultivate the full breadth and beauty of our shared humanity. We affirm and celebrate a multitude of perspectives and experiences that reflect the diversity of our country and world. We are dedicated to making a welcoming and accessible space for people of any identity, background, or ability. 


We hold the institution and each other responsible and accountable for living our shared values. There is no hierarchy to these values; they are all equally important and interrelated. We acknowledge that as an institution we must devote time to implementing and sustaining these values:

We center anti-racism

Habituate anti-racist practices in our policies, structure, and culture

We lead with inquiry

Ask questions in a spirit of brave curiosity in our never-ending journey of learning and growth

We believe in collaboration

Work together with trust and respect to unlock collective creativity

We practice adaptability

Challenge assumptions and create capacity to support “next” practices

We embrace regenerative practice

Promote the health and vitality of our planet, our organization, and each other 

American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.)

Loeb Drama Center

64 Brattle Street

Cambridge, MA 02138

Phone # 617-547-8300

WEBSITE: www.americanrepertorytheater.org