Rutgers Theater Company presents "Gabriel" April 7-12

Young Prince Gabriel is dashing and debonair, well trained in sword fighting and horseback riding, and set to inherit his grandfather’s vast fortune. There’s just one problem: on his 16th birthday, Gabriel finds out that he is a she. How will Gabriel proceed to live and love in the rigidity of the 19th century? Step into the opulent, “rock ‘n’ roll” masquerade of Rutgers Theater Company’s Gabriel, running from Tuesday, April 7, through Sunday, April 12, 2015, at the Jameson Studio Theater.

Grab your absinthe and settle in to an underground Parisian cabaret of a bygone era, where the story of Gabriel will unfold before you and challenge what you think you know about men and women.

George Sand’s Gabriel is more than just a commentary on gender roles and identity crises, though, says Christopher Cartmill, Mason Gross theater faculty member and director of the play.

“Although there’s a lot in the play about gender, and about the treatment of women, there’s also the overwhelming idea of freedom—the freedom to be who you want to be,” says Cartmill, who translated the play from its original French.

After her discovery, Gabriel continues to present herself in male costume, complicating a relationship with her cousin Astolphe, whom Gabriel feels is the rightful heir to the family inheritance. Just as Gabriel’s gender is revealed to Astolphe, love blooms and tragedy strikes.

The gender play and exploration in Gabriel is “an exciting and sensitive” topic, says Cartmill, who finds the story “powerful and contemporary” even decades after Sand wrote it as a novel in 1839.

Born Aurore Dupin, the Paris-born Sand was known as much for her many love affairs and habit of dressing in men’s clothing as for her writing. Cartmill is such a fan of the nonconformist that he has “cast” her as the host of the performance and uses her writing to introduce scenes.

“She was an unbelievably cool woman, so we wanted her to be a character in the play,” explains Cartmill.

Complete with costumes in a mash-up of Victorian-meets-steampunk style—think bustles, fringe, and high collars, but with a shot of modernity—the play is “going to be radical fun and a little rock ‘n’ roll,” Cartmill says.

Gabriel runs from Tuesday, April 7, through Sunday, April 12, 2015, at the Jameson Studio Theater. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $15 for the general public, $12 for Rutgers alumni and employees and seniors, and only $10 for students with valid ID. The Jameson Studio Theater is located at 30 Jones Avenue, on the Douglass Campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, in New Brunswick. For more information about any Mason Gross event, visit www.masongross.rutgers.edu or call the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center ticket office at 848-932-7511.

Posted March 2015. Photo by Allegra Heart.

Watch the Gabriel trailer.