Not About Kyle is All about Relatability

Illustrated by Melissa Wang

Saturday night, alongside three friends, I attended Yale’s first live theatrical performance since the start of the pandemic: Not About Kyle, written by Ann Zhang, MY ’24, and co-produced by Zhang and Sebastian Duque, BR ’24. Last spring, I attended a few of the Dramat’s plays over Zoom, but quite frankly, it’s not the same as sitting down in front of a stage. As we waited for the play to start, “Motion Sickness” by Phoebe Bridgers played in the background, setting the mood for the whole affair. The audience geared up for a play full of the frustrations of a teenage girl.

There was one caveat: all the actors wore masks. Someone told me that the choice was between having masks and an audience or going maskless and virtual. I’m glad they chose the former, even if the audience had to witness a few masked kisses. 

The play is told in three parts. It begins with a high school student, Luce, portrayed by Soojin Park, DC ’25, talking to her friend Kyle, played by Armanti Reed, MY ‘23, about his crush, Bernadette, played by Elsie Harrington, TD ‘25. Throughout the play, Luce also writes a story about a guy named Kyle — though not her friend Kyle — who is similarly crushing hard, though his love interest takes on the name of Jane instead of Bernadette. When Luce inquires about why Kyle likes Bernadette, he’s unable to give many reasons that go beyond the surface. In short, Bernadette is pretty. The next day, Bernadette’s parents take her out of school for undisclosed reasons, and Luce seems just as distressed as Kyle. The first part ends with the male student that Luce supposedly liked, Jonathan, kissing her in their writing club—and her promptly running away.

The second part takes on a different structure, with Kyle narrating different vignettes from Luce’s life which reveal that Luce is attracted to women and likely not attracted to men at all. Throughout this journey into Luce’s sexuality, the audience gradually realizes that Kyle does not exist but is instead a mere character in Luce’s head used to project her “internalized male gaze.” Kinda trippy.

The play ends with Bernadette’s return to school, when Luce finally reveals to her best friend, Margie, that she is not interested in Jonathan and decides to confront her feelings for Bernadette directly. Despite Bernadette’s initial aloofness (she hardly remembers she’s in charge of the writing club or the fact she was on the swim team with Luce), they share a kiss by the pool before Bernadette reveals that she is not gay. Luce reflects on her admiration towards Bernadette and accepts that, just like Kyle, there wasn’t much she liked about Bernadette beneath the surface.

This was my first time seeing a student-written and student-produced play in person, and overall, I was really impressed. Zhang has a real knack for humor. Some personal favorite moments include Margie’s attempt to lure boys into the writing club by not-so-subtly contouring her boobs and Luce’s parents fighting over healthy zucchini pasta. I enjoyed the set as well. The set designer, Bobby Gonzalez, BF ’24, made great use of three simple structures: a school, a bedroom, and a living room. Little bits of Luce’s personality shined through in her bedroom posters, but most of the focus fell onto the action of the play.

Despite the 50% face coverage, the cast did a good job conveying emotions. I really enjoyed Veronica Zimmer’s, SM ’25, performance as Margie. She had a keen sense of comedic timing and really complemented Park’s energetic Luce. Reed vividly embodied Kyle, believably playing both a friend and an internal voice with whom Luce could interact.

A lot of credit has to be given to the play’s relatability. All three of the friends with whom I attended the show were experienced non-men who have had relationships with non-men, and the little jokes in Zhang’s script — like crushing on some random teacher or the (perhaps overly) enthusiastic recognition of Cate Blanchett during a segment of “Name that Celebrity” — surprisingly resonated on our walk back from the theater. Though the show and its humor certainly have a broad appeal, its specific catalog of references really grip you when they relate to your lived experiences.

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