A Girl Wrote It
nytheatre.com review by Maria Micheles
February 3, 2011
The title of this evening of theatre, A Girl Wrote It, enticed me to come see it; it particularly refers to the lack of productions and attention to female playwrights' works. (Take a look at this article by Crystal Skillman for more about this issue.) Attending these one-acts turned out to be not only educational, but a viable night of theatre.
Appearing on stage first is a schoolteacher, played by Liz White, telling her bright female student (a writer) to stay away from playwriting—to do any kind of writing but that, or she will never succeed and never eat cake. Telling it as it is about the plight of great but underemployed female playwrights, the one-acts that follow steer away from repeating messages and women’s propaganda, showcasing exceptional talented writers, covering a very different range of theatrical, language, period and other styles of theatre.
The most conventional of the one-acts—and conventional only in the sense that it can occur in our world—is Lynda Green’s Clementine, which deals with the catastrophes and crimes that occur out there and how they manifest in people’s lives. When one woman (Becky Sterling Rygg) has been victimized and gone through hell, and at the same time is bereft of a compassionate partner, it makes the healing process more difficult and impossible-seeming. Fortunately, in this situation, not only does the protagonist receive a surprise visitor (William Reid) who turns out to have enough charm to distract her from her woes, but she also ends up being given something that is substantial for her to be able to go on. This piece is directed by Jerrod Bogard.
The second one-act, Selection, by Kris Montgomery, takes place in a futuristic time, in what one would consider is a doctor’s office. Director Tim Butterfield neatly places only four chairs set on the stage, where two strangely dressed couples await the results of whether their genes will be able to continue and carry on. But it turns out the script is full of twists and turns as we end up discovering that the powers that control are more intelligent than one expects, and they use trickery to coax their gullible subjects to accept the decisions imposed upon them. Both couples are very convincingly played by Tom Carman, Lucy McRae, Allison Moody and Anthony Mead.
What's unexpected during these one-acts is that scene changes are turned into interludes that shed more light on the plight of women in theatre, albeit in a comedic way. One of the women who was told that she was in line for the Wendy Wasserstein Award was Bekah Brunstetter, but couldn’t receive it because there was no outstanding play that year. Here, we get Bekah’s reaction to it, as told by Liz White: that Bekah went around repeating to everyone she met that she was not outstanding, and looking in the mirror and saying it to herself, and reading the entire New York Times and regurgitating it, all of which, if true, is a potent and telling expression of what it is like to be on the other end of the battle.
The third one-act, The Return of Toodles Von Flooz, written by Lisa Ferber and directed by Kristin Skye Hoffman, takes you back in time and into a bar in a town called Helluva in the middle of nowhere. The sultry Betty O’Boozenberg (played by Lisa Mamazza) sits, complaining of the Irish potato and latke famish that brought her family to the U.S. and how it has affected her. This classic Hollywood-starlet lookalike and “act-a-like” drinks and smokes the entire time, tossing lightning-bolt penetrating one-liners back and forth to the tall, slender bartender, wonderfully acted by Colin McFadden. Their lines carry so much meaning that they make everything else seem meaningless. These characters provide the same amount of action as if they were in a boxing ring, that is, up until the sultry blonde Toodles Von Flooz enters (perfectly played by Brianne Mai), who's a reformed churchgoer who stops at the bar to reform all others who have not been reformed yet. As they struggle to define what human nature is, Betty and the bartender quickly outdo Toodles’s admonitions, getting her to start repenting her new boring ways, and start to sing, dance, and lure all the men who have entered the place.
The last one-act of the evening, Elizabeth Birkenmeier’s Plight of the Apothecary, is a type of theatre I’ve never encountered before. Director Justin Ness incorporates a mixed multimedia setting, travelling circus costumes, acrobatic movements, which along with the play's poetic and reference-rich language make it seem like a different planet or a futuristic one. Eventually, the audience is able to pick up the rules of the game in order to gain entrance into this unique post-apocalyptic world, where the characters One and Two, played by Kirsta Peterson and Mike Komala, resort to quoting or starting phrases that begin with “If I were a daisy, I would…” to express themselves. One gets the sense that they are running out of things to say but not out of time, as they are enjoying too-long life spans and don’t know how to handle them. Fortunately they can receive visitors from off the monitor, one of which is Ru, magnificently played by Melissa Johnson, a former cripple turned into the most radiant and genius of them all with the help of a new drug. But as people are being physically enhanced, they are mentally depleting. This piece features very subtle writing, acting, and directing.
Praise goes to Horse Trade and Wide Eyed Productions for putting up such an eclectic evening of performances. All the plays in this program succeed in being wonderfully theatrical and informative.