Identity Crisis: 5 reasons to see ‘Everything That’s Beautiful’ at Loft Theatre

Eric Deiboldt (Theo), Kelly Mengelkoch (Jess), Josh Aaron McCabe (Luke), and Jax Heritage (Morgan) in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Everything That's Beautiful." PHOTO BY SCOTT J. KIMMINS

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Eric Deiboldt (Theo), Kelly Mengelkoch (Jess), Josh Aaron McCabe (Luke), and Jax Heritage (Morgan) in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Everything That's Beautiful." PHOTO BY SCOTT J. KIMMINS

The Human Race Theatre Company’s outstanding regional premiere of Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder’s quietly compelling, gender-identity drama “Everything That’s Beautiful” continues through March 6 at the Loft Theatre.

Wilder’s breezy, pensive play, shifting from a small town in western Pennsylvania to New York’s Coney Island, examines the repercussions of a family’s decision to leave the past behind and begin again. The action concerns 10-year-old Morgan, who was born male but identifies as female. When secrets are revealed at the workplace, situations spin out of control threatening to tear the family apart.

In addition to composer Jay Brunner’s beautifully moody, melancholy score and Tamara L. Honesty’s excellent scenic design, including a spacious waterpark tank, here are five reasons to see this important, timely and moving production.

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Jax Heritage (Morgan) and Kelly Mengelkoch (Jess) in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Everything That's Beautiful." PHOTO BY SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Jax Heritage (Morgan) and Kelly Mengelkoch (Jess) in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Everything That's Beautiful." PHOTO BY SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Combined ShapeCaption
Jax Heritage (Morgan) and Kelly Mengelkoch (Jess) in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Everything That's Beautiful." PHOTO BY SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Jax Heritage and Isabella Roberts impress in pivotal role

The pivotal role of Morgan is shared between local fourth-grade students Jax Heritage and Isabella Roberts. Fittingly and physically, they provide their own unique spin. The taller Heritage is an assertive presence, especially in his tussles with enjoyably edgy Eric Deiboldt (Morgan’s perturbed, rebellious older brother Theo). The shorter, sensitive and timid Roberts supplies a more delicate approach, signaling Morgan’s femininity. Although Wilder could have gone deeper into Morgan’s backstory (perhaps heightening the drama with a school counselor scene involving psychology or bullying), both actors interpret the role with believability, charm and purpose, grasping the play’s heavy, serious foundation with relative ease.

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Josh Aaron McCabe (Luke) and Kelly Mengelkoch (Jess) in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Everything That's Beautiful." PHOTO BY SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Josh Aaron McCabe (Luke) and Kelly Mengelkoch (Jess) in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Everything That's Beautiful." PHOTO BY SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Combined ShapeCaption
Josh Aaron McCabe (Luke) and Kelly Mengelkoch (Jess) in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Everything That's Beautiful." PHOTO BY SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Josh Aaron McCabe and Kelly Mengelkoch illuminate domestic disarray

Josh Aaron McCabe and Kelly Mengelkoch remarkably carry the emotional weight of the play as Luke and Jess convey their fears amid the whirlwind of starting over. “Someone is always gonna ask questions,” Luke reminds Jess. McCabe, a Wright State University acting professor who recently staged the quirky “Circle Mirror Transformation,” wonderfully exposes the uneasy complexities of a father uncomfortable with a new normal, especially seeing his son in a bathing suit. He also brings heartbreaking earnestness to Luke’s Act 2 confession that finds him torn between parental acceptance and public ridicule. The splendidly expressive Mengelkoch captivates in her Act 1 monologue centered on Jess’ agitation and uncertainty while visiting Morgan’s doctor. She also winningly handles Jess’ shady duality, particularly eliciting gasps from the audience when Jess lies about being a mother. When you’re so authentic that any separation from the truth can stir a reaction, you know you’re doing something right. Mengelkoch has been a staple at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company for many years, but I’m hoping she’ll return to the Human Race more often. See her now before HBO or Netflix gives her a call.

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Josh Aaron McCabe (Luke) and Teresa Langford (Gaby) in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Everything That's Beautiful." PHOTO BY SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Josh Aaron McCabe (Luke) and Teresa Langford (Gaby) in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Everything That's Beautiful." PHOTO BY SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Combined ShapeCaption
Josh Aaron McCabe (Luke) and Teresa Langford (Gaby) in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Everything That's Beautiful." PHOTO BY SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Teresa Langford and Justin McCombs offer engaging support

As the magnetic Gaby, the mermaid attraction at the local waterpark who offers to give Morgan swimming lessons, the lovely Teresa Langford entices with friendly intrigue, especially as a sexy seductress opposite McCabe. Blending mystery with affability, Justin McCombs, another Cincinnati Shakespeare standout, is an endearing source of comic relief as chatty bookworm Will, a consultant for a conservative think tank who befriends Jess at a Brooklyn-area coffee shop.

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The Human Race Theatre Company has announced that artistic director Kevin Moore will retire from the company that he helped to found in June 2022.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

The Human Race Theatre Company has announced that artistic director Kevin Moore will retire from the company that he helped to found in June 2022.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

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The Human Race Theatre Company has announced that artistic director Kevin Moore will retire from the company that he helped to found in June 2022.

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CONTRIBUTED

Kevin Moore’s first-rate directorial farewell

After 36 years of leading the Human Race, Kevin Moore will retire in June. He’s going out with a bang here because his directorial farewell, fluidly directed and astutely character-conscious, recalls other terrifically acted and designed premieres he spearheaded such as Michael Slade’s “Family Shots,” a contemporary account of a diverse family coping with an ailing patriarch, and Eric Ulloa’s “26 Pebbles,” a tribute to Newtown, Connecticut, forever changed by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. “Everything That’s Beautiful” fits the mold of what the Human Race does best: illuminating humanity in all aspects with thought-provoking subject matter that challenges, educates and enlightens audiences.

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Jax Heritage (Morgan) and the cast of the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Everything That's Beautiful." PHOTO BY SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Jax Heritage (Morgan) and the cast of the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Everything That's Beautiful." PHOTO BY SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Combined ShapeCaption
Jax Heritage (Morgan) and the cast of the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Everything That's Beautiful." PHOTO BY SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J. KIMMINS

A relevant story ripped from today’s headlines

This regional premiere arrives as Ohio House Bill 454 has been proposed. The Republican-sponsored bill seeks to prevent anyone under age 18 from proceeding with gender transition, particularly prohibiting medical personnel – public or private – from helping minors transition. “Everything That’s Beautiful” is an impactful work made for this opportune moment in order to spark healthy, inclusive dialogue that has the potential to bridge political and cultural divides.

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Justin McCombs (Will) and Kelly Mengelkoch (Jess) in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Everything That's Beautiful." PHOTO BY SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Justin McCombs (Will) and Kelly Mengelkoch (Jess) in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Everything That's Beautiful." PHOTO BY SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Combined ShapeCaption
Justin McCombs (Will) and Kelly Mengelkoch (Jess) in the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Everything That's Beautiful." PHOTO BY SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J. KIMMINS

HOW TO GO

What: “Everything That’s Beautiful”

Where: Loft Theatre, 126 N. Main St., Dayton

When: Through March 6; 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday

Cost: $17-$53

Tickets: 937-228-3630 or daytonlive.org

Duration: 2 hours including intermission

FYI: Patrons are required to wear masks

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The cast of the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Everything That's Beautiful." Front row left to right: Jax Heritage and Isabella Roberts; Back row left to right: Eric Deiboldt, Justin McCombs, Kelly Mengelkoch, Josh Aaron McCabe, and Teresa Langford. PHOTO BY SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J. KIMMINS

The cast of the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Everything That's Beautiful." Front row left to right: Jax Heritage and Isabella Roberts; Back row left to right: Eric Deiboldt, Justin McCombs, Kelly Mengelkoch, Josh Aaron McCabe, and Teresa Langford. PHOTO BY SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Combined ShapeCaption
The cast of the Human Race Theatre Company's production of "Everything That's Beautiful." Front row left to right: Jax Heritage and Isabella Roberts; Back row left to right: Eric Deiboldt, Justin McCombs, Kelly Mengelkoch, Josh Aaron McCabe, and Teresa Langford. PHOTO BY SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J. KIMMINS

Credit: SCOTT J. KIMMINS

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