port of harlem magazine
woolly mammoth theatre
Public Obscenities, If We Only Knew

Nov 30 – Dec 13, 2023

If we only knew about the Hijra maybe we would not have initially found Public Obscenities so weird. Like many Woolly Mammoth plays, Obscenities not only entertained, it stretched my mind.

Unlike playwrite Shayok Misha Chowdhury, let me start off sharing that on the Indian subcontinent, the Hijra are eunuchs, intersex people, or transgender people. Similar to US law since 2007, the Hijra are officially recognized as a third gender throughout countries in the Indian subcontinent. In 2021, Bangladesh introduced its first transgender TV anchor, Tashnuva Anan, who happens to be in the play!

Woolly bills the performance as Choton returning to Kolkata, India on a research trip with his Black American boyfriend Raheem to interview queer locals while showing Raheem his world.

However, my guest and I was not sure if Shou (Tashnuva Anan) one of the first people he interviewed identified a male, female, or X. We also really could not tell that Raheem was Choton’s boyfriend since he was masturbating in bed with Raheem sleeping next to him.

By the way, the play does come with a Content Transparency warming: “The play includes profanity and sexual content. The production also includes theatrical oral sex and masturbation as well as theatrical smoke.”

While the play was entertaining and mind-opening, the best part of the play was delving into Choton’s Indian world largely via the colorful and realistic feel of the scenic and visual designs. And even later, learning that a groundbreaking pioneer was on stage.
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