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Fri May 17, 2002
Women's Playwriting Festival
The Perishable Theatre's Tenth Annual International Women's Playwriting Festival serves up three new plays about women in distress.
By Bill Marx
Providence, RI –
The three plays in this year's Women's Playwriting Festival take different approaches, but share a common theme: trauma and its aftermath. Each could be subtitled "Pain in Women's Lives and How They Survive It." The focus on female alienation is limited, but perhaps it is necessary to justify a Women's Playwriting Festival. Women playwrights are becoming increasingly mainstream. After all, both the winner and the finalists of this year's Pulitzer Prize in Drama were women.
Each script provides moments that break through the self-indulgence. The first play and the most abstract of the three, "White Gifts," is by Mireille Juchau. A young mental patient, Martine, wanders through a shopping mall where she runs into an aged homeless woman. Each character meditates on their inner wounds. Martine obsesses on the death of her daughter and society's attempt to medicate away the pain. As Martine, Sandra Laub exudes conviction even when the play's attempt to be poetic ends up making it merely precious.
The next play is "All Souls Day" by Christine Evans. It has a more political bent. A young boy, Milo, and his aunt, Manja, are on a deserted beach. They have run away from their village, which has been destroyed by brutal marauders. The aunt is too traumatized to speak, her feet are bruised and bloody. As she swims in the sea, Milo prattles on, hoping that Manja will respond and there will be a return to normalcy. Bennett Schlesinger is too boisterous as Milo, but here and there the play gets at the anguish of dislocation before it resolves the situation in a pat ending.
The most successful play of the evening, "Scatterhead," is by Elizabeth Anderson. It is the least earnest and the most humorous. The plot is not particularly new, but the deadpan tang of the dialogue is good for some chuckles. A suffocating small town is hit by a big mystery: "Edna Philomel Baker disappeared from her residence at 53 Briar Road."
So, how did Edna escape and where did she go? She probably used a mysterious machine, which her daughter is trying to operate in the basement. And Edna must have gone to a better place. The small minds of Edna's friends at the beauty parlor are hilariously trite. Her lump of a husband can't figure out how to do the laundry. The Perishable Theatre performers are suitably droll. Sure, making fun of life in a small town is easy, but unlike the other two plays, which go after big issues and miss, "Scatterhead" picks a tiny target and nails it.
The Tenth Annual International Women's Playwriting Festival runs through June 9, 2002 at the Perishable Theatre in Providence, Rhode Island. For performance times and tickets, call (401) 331-2695 ext 101.