A very personal, introspective journey that examines how people overcome their differences (often by creating new ones), Emily Pearlman’s I Think My Boyfriend Should Have an Accent… (and other things you shouldn’t say out loud) is certainly a heavy-hitting show.
Recounting her personal experiences while travelling, Pearlman recalls the tensions that crawl up into interpersonal relationships, tensions over things like race/ethnicity, religion, family history, etc. When exploring themes such as these it’s dangerously easy to fall into unintentionally offensive territory, but Pearlman and dramaturg Laurel Green keep everything very respectful and thoughtful.
The content falls into 3 main parts: first, Pearlman recalls her trip to Rwanda, a country still rebuilding after the devastating civil war and genocide in 1995. Exempt from “National Cleaning Day” as a money-bringing tourist, Pearlman tells us how she was unable to look at the Rwandans taking part in this self-healing action that had such horrific roots.
Part 2 involves another dark chapter of the 20th century when Pearlman relates her university-aged trip to Poland, visiting Auschwitz as part of a special group of students and Holocaust survivors. The enormity of the events that happened are obvious to everyone, yet the story ends with a student of Jewish heritage singling out her non-Jewish friend Peter for never being able to understand the tragedy the way a Jew would. Can people claim ownership on collective misery? How can humanity heal from disasters like the Holocaust, where people were assigned subhuman status by their captors, when people still divide themselves into who’s allowed to feel and who’s not? Aren’t people just people?
The third main section involves no humanitarian disasters but rather the experience of finding what makes one feel comfortable in their own skin, at a transformative festival (à la Burning Man) in rural Quebec. Amid group trust exercises and the raves at night, Pearlman tells how you can learn to express yourself and just learn to be without impinging on anyone else’s right to be. After the previous sections, which emphasize the consequences of people holding onto their differences, this last section injects a little hope into the situation – the answer is just to get along with other people, and how hard can that be?
When E.M. Forster published his novel Howards End in 1910, he added the epigraph “only connect…” at the beginning, hoping that his novel about people overcoming the strict Edwardian class system to arrive at a happy ending would encourage people not to prejudge or make assumptions about others. 105 years later with I Think My Boyfriend Should Have an Accent, Pearlman reminds us that while the problem is so complicated, the solution is so simple. Excellently designed projections on the part of Anthony Scavarelli provide the only visuals in this show, counterpointing and commenting on her storytelling without ever taking the attention away from her.
The show asks its questions gently, but it may take a while for you to find your own answers for them – and that is exactly the point.
I Think My Boyfriend Should Have an Accent… (and other things you shouldn’t say out loud)
Written and Performed by Emily Pearlman
Directed and Dramaturged by Laurel Green
Projection Design by Anthony Scavarelli
Running Time: 60 minutes
Playing at ODD Box
Saturday June 20 9:00 pm
Monday June 22 5:30 pm
Thursday June 25 7:00 pm
Friday June 26 5:30 pm
Saturday June 27 9:00 pm