History Theatre's most recent show Superman Becomes Lois Lane is a touching and thoughtful look at the career and influence of Susan Kimberly. Susan Kimberly was born Bob Sylvester and had a career as the president of city council and an investment banker before transitioning and continuing on in her career to become the deputy mayor of Saint Paul. What makes the show even more special is that the play was written by Susan Kimberly herself.
What makes the show so unique is that both Susan Kimberly as portrayed by Freya Richman and Bob Sylvester as portrayed by Sean Michael Dooley exist together on stage in multiple scenes. The two who are in moments completely separate and at others are one are constantly in conversation with each other though, this method of storytelling is powerful and unique from other stories of transition that I have seen.
The first act of the play focuses mainly on the decision to the steps that needed to be taken for Susan Kimberly to fully come to life. As a person who was born after most of the events of this play take place it was enlightening but also painful to see all of the bureaucratic hoops that needed to be completed in order for Susan to complete her transition, from a sign off from a doctor to proof of a completed divorce.
The second act focuses on life after transition from career challenges to the media attention. This act also focused more on conversations between Susan and Bob. This conversation and reflection was how the play ended. It was a powerful way to wrap everything up but in many ways also seemed to go on for a lengthy period of time.
The beautiful set that this story takes place on was designed by Michael Hoover. The set was wide open but also layered, allowing for great movement and story telling directed by Laura Leffler. Combined with the costume design by Andrea Gross and Barb Portinga and the entire creative team the world of the early 1980s was very well set.
Superman Becomes Lois Lane is playing at the History Theatre in Saint Paul until March 1st. It proves once again that the History Theatre excels the most when it highlights the stories of those important to Minnesota's own history. Click here for more information about the show and how to get tickets.
*Photos by Rick Spaulding