Will Wilhelm, a nonbinary person, stands on a stage filled with red velvet furniture. They are wearing a long red skirt and black top.
Will Wilhelm in Gender Play or what you Will at About Face Theatre Credit: Michael Brosilow

All of the world is a stage, and Will Wilhelm knows it. Their new production at About Face (cocreated and directed by Erin Murray), Gender Play, or what you Will, is the perfect platform for them to explore their gender journey while also expressing their more dramatic side via monologuing with a side of dissertation. In this charming one-enby show, Wilhelm invites us into their red, velvet-covered salon to explore their lived gender experience through the lens of a séance/tarot reading/soliloquy mash-up on the timelessness of genderqueering, as evidenced by the words of William Shakespeare himself. 

Gender Play or what you Will
Through 6/3: Thu-Fri 8 PM, Sat 3 and 8 PM, Sun 3 PM; industry night Mon 5/22 8 PM, no show Sat 5/27 3 PM; Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee, 773-697-3830, aboutfacetheatre.com, pay what you can ($5-$35)

During this witty soul search, Wilhelm happily brings the audience into the fold, remarking with an air knock on an air door, “Have you noticed a fourth wall yet?” Audience members are solicited early on, given cameo roles, and one lucky person even gets their own tarot reading.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Wilhelm’s performance is the singsong rhythm that emerges as they toggle back and forth from the Elizabethan English of their namesake to modern English, selecting epic scenes from various plays by the bard, including Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But Wilhelm themselves cheekily notes that their genderplay is not just for Shakespeare aficionados who might think they know all there is to know about the works of the bard, quoting Shakespeare himself —“A fool thinks himself to be wise but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.”

Instead, Wilhelm digs deep into the experience of being othered as a trans person and draws parallels between the othered folks that Shakespeare made sure to represent (from gender-bending to working-class people to people of foreign descent). They also delicately note that their reflection on Shakespeare necessarily involves their own reflections on themself, echoing Shakespeare’s “The purpose of playing . . . is to hold, as ‘twere, a mirror up to nature”—the magic essence of all art.