Anna Ziegler’s 2016 play fictionalizes the case of David Reimer, born in 1965, who had the misfortune of becoming a living laboratory for theories about gender. Like Reimer, Ziegler’s Adam Turner lost his penis in infancy, the result of a botched circumcision. And, also like Reimer, Adam was put under the care of an eminent psychologist (Wendell Barnes here, John Money in real life), who believed that sexual identity was fungible: give a male-born tot a vagina, hormone therapy, the right cultural prompts, and no inkling of the truth, Barnes/Money thought, and he’ll grow up comfortably as a she.

Damon Kiely’s wonderfully empathic production makes it clear how wrong that notion was without demonizing anyone involved. The play shows us Adam (Theo Germaine) as a small putative girl, meeting with Barnes (David Parkes), whose determination to prove his thesis doesn’t preclude a fatherly devotion to her. These scenes are interspersed with glimpses of an increasingly restive adolescent Adam, the consequences of his reversion to a male identity when the facts come out, and his naturally tortured relationship with a woman.

It’s an awful, powerful story, but Ziegler ultimately betrays it by—spoiler alert!—trying to deliver a happy ending. She lets Adam find love, which was apparently true of Reimer as well, but fails to acknowledge onstage that Reimer ended up committing suicide a few months short of his 39th birthday. Arguing a writer’s prerogative on this point doesn’t seem like enough to me, given that so much else about Adam Turner faithfully reproduces Reimer’s experience.

Boy Through 3/18: Wed-Thu 7:30 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 4 and 8 PM, Sun 2 PM, TimeLine Theatre, 615 W. Wellington, 773-281-8463,, $40.