Local Arts Reviews
Reviewed by Rob Curran, Fri., Nov. 23, 2001
theevolutionofwoman: The Ladies Room
UT Laboratory Theatre,
A sensitive and beautiful creation with big brains; an elegant and thrilling use of dance; theevolutionofwoman falters only on the subject of men. It's like holding a ladies washroom mirror up to life.
Six sister playlets grow up around situations common to many female lives. Beginning with "stairway to heaven," featuring three middle school girls who dig for dirt at a school dance, theevolution culminates in two old ladies flying out of their wheelchairs in a section called "airport." Along the way, different women struggle with college graduation, long-term relationships, motherhood, and middle age.
Exciting new playwright S. Lucia Del Vecchio sets herself a tough question: Who decides what is normal for a woman? Her six answers yield laughter and reflection, and always stick to the point. Such strong internal logic and linear presentation of life stages make up for the exclusion of men from the cast.
For "the wedding," bridesmaid Audrey (Alexis Chamow) whisks away the bride, Sara (Amy Steiger), from the reception to ask whether a sense of insecurity about breaking up with her asshole boyfriend is normal. Together they uncover the pushers of normalcy when it comes to romantic expectations: "It's those fuckers who invented Cinderella," says Audrey, "They should be taken out and shot."
Much of the play's strengths show in a slow moving checkout line at the "grocery store." For this sketch, Elia Nichols becomes Susan, mother of five, pushing an overloaded trolley toward the checkout and the end of her tether. The adept Melinda Peinado is Linda, a right-on progressive who defends the checkout lady from Susan's wrath. But Alexis Chamow steals this part of the show as Linda, the working mom who throws a Twinkie among the pigeons, providing Susan and Linda with the means to fight. "Nobody moves or the commie gets it," says Susan. Director Johanna McKeon teases out the old debate between social theorists and full-time moms in the liberating form of a pie fight.
Amy Steiger performs a brilliant monologue as a middle-aged woman dealing with her daughter's experience of date rape in "damage." The monologue's brilliance dims only during the rants about "men." For a work that twists old scenarios into new shapes, such a predictable attitude toward men is a weakness. At moments like these, Del Vecchio's dialogue returns to the washroom of some 1970s feminist conference.
Actresses like Lucy Walters, Elena Araoz, and Melinda Peinado are a credit to the UT Department of Theatre & Dance. S. Lucia Del Vecchio offers exactly what this male reviewer seeks in the theatre: a peek into forbidden mirrors, possible answers to tough questions, and food fights.