In a Snit…

1 May

I saw a play the other night.  It was produced by my favorite theatre company in Chicago, heck, in the world (or as Tyra Banks would say “In the entire universe”).  They get consistently great performances from their company, they write great material, and have truly amazing productions.  They do an excellent job of combining high-concept arty stuff with captivating entertainment.  You can feel the sincerity and passion shooting out of their eyeballs – it’s a beautiful experience to see the work they do and especially to hear them talk about it.

And who are they, you might ask?  Well, I’m not going to tell you, because I love them, but am about to give them a bad review.  This is the only criticism I can really bring myself to execute (secretive), because I just feel like the last thing struggling artists need is for other struggling (resigned?) artists to crap all over them.  I didn’t like the show, but I want you to go see it, so that they’ll have money to make the next one, because I really want to see that one…..  So basically, I think this is less criticism and more gossip.  Now THAT is something I can whole-heartedly get on board with.

I was so pumped and ready to love their newest show.  My mom was in town and was taking care of Ida, Nate and I were out on the town like old times and really excited to see some rad art (and be in bed by 10PM – my ultimate goal each day).  We shared a beer while we waited for the show to start and discussed non-baby-effluvia related things.  It was, in a word, beautiful.

Man, did I ever hate that show.

The concept seemed rock-solid.  As I understand it, the idea was to combine a rock show vibe/experience and the extreme emotional stuff we go through in adolescence/high school.  I thought these things would be really interesting together – for lots of us those experiences are combined anyway – while we were dealing with all of these intense emotions, we discovered “our music” and the subculture that came with it.   Plus, like I said, this company ROCKS and I was beyond excited to see their iteration of these concepts.

I liked most of the dancing, I thought the set was cool, and as always, I loved the props and conceptual stuff .  The performances were really fantastic – especially the women.  Those kids can sing, my friends.  The material itself was okay if a little straight-on for my tastes.  It seemed like Rock-Lite – pretty much all of the allegedly seedy bases were covered:  sex, drugs, and rock and roll.  There was eyeliner galore.  Picture the pity-sex child of Rent and High School Musical.  Yup, you’re there.

The show was titled Boys Vs. Girls (okay, the secrecy is waning).  This led me to believe that I would be hearing from the latter part of this contest as well as the former.  Not so.  As I watched the play, I kept getting more and more wound up and pissed off.  While we (the audience) learned about the mental/emotional/spiritual experiences of the male characters, we only learned about what the female characters were doing (or not doing) with their bodies.  Spoiler alert – they almost always made the “wrong” choices according to the male characters.   Male characters told us who was cool, who was a bitch and who slept with who.  They even told us who had an abortion (and how that robbed one of the male characters of his emotional and physical property – a relationship with her and HIS baby – you can imagine my delight with THAT story line).  The guys called the shots, and even when they weren’t being dicks about it, it still pissed me off.  The high school experience?  Try half of the high school experience.  I didn’t hear any women’s voices in the story telling.  I learned what happened to them sometimes (insofar as it affected the male characters) but I didn’t learn how they were feeling or what they experienced.

There was one character (abortion gal) who I was really counting on.  I was thinking to myself “okay, at some point, we are going to hear about the world from her perspective and it’s going to be fantastic.  Sit tight….. something you can relate to is coming…..”  She sang a musical number in the style of Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (my brother told me, I have no idea about hip music) and I was getting more and more hopeful.  THEN, she hooked up with the sensitive-outsider-fella in the woods.  She was smoking a cigarette when he got a text that his sister was getting hit on by a dangerous dude.  Sensitive Outsider has to leave and rather than getting pissed off that S.O. was hijacking her experience, Abortion Gal morphed (at lightning speed) into a gentle, yielding, helpmate – reassuring him that it was okay to ditch her right after their tryst and driving him to his sister’s (unwanted) aid.  Boo.  From there on out, I just sat with my arms folded and stewed in my pissed-ness while the ladies either underwent gentle helpmate metamorphoses, took their clothes off, or were dismissed as either used for sex or refusing sex.  They were pretty torn up about it either way.

To be fair, this company has done a fantastic job writing really cool women in their past shows, and a number of the fellas got semi-naked in this one.  I felt like those were relevant points to mention.  Also, maybe they were going for a sort-of metaexploration of sexism in high school?  I didn’t get it, but if the desired outcome was to help me re-live my high school frustration at the world’s apparent male-orientation and prominence – mission accomplished.  In much the same way as in high school, I did feel like male stories,ideas, and processes were primary.  I also thought the combination of rock music and a male-dominated viewpoint was spot-on in its corrolation to my experience, in high school –  where the scene gals were the ones selling the merch, making food, and bending their lives around the guys making the music.  Bummer.

Had the show been titled “Boys!  Exclamation Point! (and the girls’ bodies they used for their various purposes)”  I think I would have been 100% cool with this show.   Oh wait…..


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