Six Women give local theater a sassy kick in the ass.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Paper Wing Theatre reaffirms something specific with its latest production, the elaborately labeled Six Women with Brain Death, or Expiring Minds Want to Know – namely, that they have something precious and fresh to add to the local theater scene.
Six Women unfurls over 12 distinct but-not-unrelated skits, “Saturday Night Live”-style, that attack the fraudulent, laugh at foibles and mourn the passing of the independent mind.
A backdrop splashed with graffiti slogans and music by the Go-Gos and the Waitresses set the fun and fem-centric tone. The cast members assemble one by one, dressed in avant-garde black, and announce bizarre but real tabloid headlines. When all six women have emerged, they break into the opening number: “Does it ever cross your mind/ That something strange is going on behind your back?” The message, which is woven throughout the script, is clear: look again at the world you’re in, and look closely.
The cast includes Megan Martinez, fresh and natural in a Sarah Silverman kind of way; a statuesque Jourdain Barton, with a beehive hairdo and androgynous voice; Phyllis Davis, the eldest; Koly McBride, good with earnestness; Alison Smith, reliable if shy; and Jennifer L. Newman, who can go over the top to great effect. (Kathy Nathan handles the music with poise.)
They all play different characters throughout and look to be having a ball. They had the songs and the choreography locked down, but with enough ramshackle style to retain their individual identities – key to the overall play.
After the rousing chorus, Martinez speaks as an everywoman, saying, “I’m not sure at all what I believe in anymore.” Then, the outrageous/courageous skits kick in – and with titles like “God Is an Alien,” “Rambi” and “Get Proud of Me” (featuring a duet with a severed head), you know it’s going to be a trip.
One skit, for instance, called “I Read Too Much,” finds Martinez playing an intelligent young woman searching for Truth and Identity (“I think, therefore I am confused”) through books like Winning Through Aggression, Soul On Ice and others.
Enter Baby Ruth (Davis), a game show host, with three archetypal women panelists – a businesswoman, a mother and a foxy lady – and a set piece that can only be described as a gameshow crucifix. “It’s time to play ‘Wise Up or Die!’ ” Ruth proclaims.
First question: “What are your views on the subject of ball-biting?” To which Jolene furiously pulls out a book and responds: “Phyllis Schafly [says,] ‘Get ahead? Give head!’ ” Wrooong. Jolene tries to answer other questions by referring to iconic women including Margaret Meade, Erica Jong and Ethel Merman; she even enacts an orgasm or two. Still, she loses the game.
“If you are none of the above,” sing the three archetypes, “you’re one of the below.” (Ouch.) Duly snubbed, Jolene retreats to what defines her: “I think I read too much...It’s imperative I finish Immanuel Kant.”
And there you have the part describing the whole: Ridiculous, playful, biting, pop culture-y, densely intellectual, singing, dancing, profane, with sound and light effects galore. And the lesson? I’m not sure. Is that OK? Yeah.
This is guerrilla theater. It’s challenging, reorienting, fast-paced, foul-mouthed and grown-up. It’s pugnacious in ways that can bruise, but it adds sweet song-and-dance to its raw-but-vital message.
Understand, going in, that Six Women has an agenda. But it’s an urgent and noble one: to revive the brain. Bravo, Paper Wing, you’ve got ovaries.
SIX WOMEN WITH BRAIN DEATH, OR EXPIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW plays 8pm Friday and Saturday, and 3pm Sunday, at Paper Wing Theatre, 320 Hoffman Ave. and Lighthouse, Monterey. Through June 15. $22/general; $17/seniors, students, military. 675-0521, www.paperwingtheatreco.com.