Imagine that your husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend suddenly announced that they were no longer the person you believed them to be, could you still remain coupled, or would this be a deal-breaker? It is precisely this question that lies at the heart of Jon Brittain’s Olivier Award-winning Rotterdam, now getting a riveting, thrillingly staged West Coast Premiere at Skylight Theatre on Vermont.

 20something Brits Alice (Miranda Wynne) and Fiona (Ashley Romans) have been living the expat life as lesbian lovers in The Netherland’s second-largest city for the past seven years, and if Alice’s fear of coming out to her conservative parents back home tops her list of reasons for staying in Rotterdam, it’s not the only one.

 She’s also got a solid job, a sexy young coworker (Audrey Cain as Lelani) to spice things up at the office, and a best mate named Josh (Ryan Brophy) who’s been there since the twosome first set sail from England.

Then comes Fiona’s bombshell announcement, and all bets are off.

If you haven’t already heard or guessed what that revelation might be, read no further and simply head on over to Los Feliz for the best Skylight Theatre production since their Obama-ology/Church And State double feature the summer before last.

On the other hand, if you don’t mind a bit of a spoiler, here goes.

 Fiona has come to the realization that she is, and probably always has been, a man, and would like to begin the process of transitioning from female to male with Alice by her side.

And therein lies the dilemma, both for Alice and for anyone in the audience imagining him or herself in a similar bind. Can two people remain in a committed romantic relationship when, for one of them at least, sexual attraction now seems inconceivable?

For Fiona, who from now on wishes to be called Adrian, the answer is a no-brainer. Of course, things should stay as they’ve been, only better now because he will be his true self.

For Alice, on the other hand, it’s an entirely different matter, since if she had any desire to be with a man, she would have stayed with Josh and not left him for his sister.

 If this isn’t enough to get Skylight Theatre audiences talking up a storm during intermission, just wait till Act Two takes us from New Year’s Eve to Koningsdag (King’s Day) four months later and Fiona has indeed become the man he always in his heart knew himself to be.

Making his Skylight Theatre debut, director Michael A. Shepperd once again proves himself one of L.A.’s most electrifying stage wizards, not only in the performances he has elicited from his gifted young cast but in a series of exhilaratingly choreographed scene changes to sound designer Christopher Moscatiello’s Eurodisco soundtrack on scenic designer Jeff McLaughlin’s dramatically abstract Rotterdam skyline-backed set.

Romans does some of the year’s most dazzling work as essentially two different characters, so totally convincing as Fiona that her transformation into Adrian’s carefully cultivated masculinity proves downright astonishing, and Brophy’s thrillingly in-the-moment Josh portends big things ahead for the soon-to-graduate USC senior.

 Wynne commands the stage as a young woman whose battle for self-ownership is further challenged by the realization that she’s in love with someone who may no longer exist, and Cain’s equal parts hot/hot mess Lelani is a Dutch delight.

McLaughlin’s vivid lighting design, Naila Aladdin Sanders’ character-appropriate costumes, and Michael O’Hara’s meticulously chosen properties complete a Grade-A production design, with Matt Orduña’s fight choreography adding to the thrills and dialect coach Tuffet Schmelzle ensuring authentic-sounding accents.

Rotterdam is produced by Gary Grossman, Tony Abatemarco, and Andrew Carlberg. Jonathan Muñoz-Proulx, Josh Gershick, and Christopher Aguilar are associate producers.

Shen Heckel is assistant director. Garrett Crouch is production stage manager. Isabel Kaufman is magic consultant. Casting is by Raul Clayton Staggs.

With recently won trans rights and protections being placed in serious jeopardy by the current administration, the timing could not be more auspicious for Rotterdam to put a human face on the transgender community. Skylight’s latest is L.A. intimate theater at its most cutting-edge and compelling.

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Skylight Theatre, 1816 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles.

–Steven Stanley
November 20, 2017
Photos: Ed Krieger

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