Crash Course Theatre, 22-23 May, Watson Auditorium
The play by Caryl Churchill is a story of female ambition, family, and what matters in life. With an all-female cast, one might expect a feminist manifesto of female empowerment and wisdom, but it is something quite different: a sensitive search for belonging, sometimes shrill, sometimes quiet, always thought-provoking.
At the beginning of the play, career woman Marlene celebrates her promotion by hosting a dinner party with some illustrious women throughout history: Victorian explorer Isabella Bird, warrior woman Dull Gret, female Pope Joan, courtesan and Buddhist nun Lady Nijo and French noble woman Patient Griselda. This sounds like it could have been a fascinating and empowering evening full of discussion but turns into a hysterical chaos. As the play progresses, it focuses more on Marlene, her sister and niece and what each of them wants in life. It talks about different goals, sacrifices and introduces various models of how a woman’s life could look.
All three acts showcase diverse women with different morals, ideals, and careers. Each one judges others while believing her own story to be better or more important. It looks behind the masks we wear in the office and cracks open the family drama that lurks in every corner. It is a clever portrayal of love, family and ambition without giving a definitive answer as to what is the right choice (while acknowledging that sometimes there is no actual choice).
Crash Course Theatre gives this complex story a worthy stage. The ensemble is very versatile, most of them playing several roles. It is a refreshing assembly of talented young women, all of them managing to give their characters distinctive features. However, in the dispute at the dinner party some of the acting could have been more convincing, especially when it comes to crying which seemed a bit over the top. But other than that, the performances were gripping and emotional, portraying some multi-layered characters. Again, as in Crash Course’s last production of Closer, they cleverly use the room they are playing in, thusly creating a unique atmosphere that fits the play well.
So, again Crash Course Theatre has presented an entertaining performance with many brilliant moments.