Monday, September 24, 2012

For Women’s Eyes Only

Sorry gentlemen: I have to advise you to sit this one out. When writers Barbara Gehring and Linda Klein named their newly reprised show at New Century TheaterGirl’s Only: The Secret Comedy of Women, they meant it.
Comprised of diaries, sleepover parties, purses, menopause and puberty jokes, pantyliner – as well as pink, pink and more pink – Girls Only is a middle-aged suburban woman’s cabaret dream. The only problem is that it’s hard for almost every other demographic to relate to.
Men (both gay and straight), young women from a democratically sexualized and postmodern-feminist generation, and even lesbians are all left on the fringes as the show focuses on jokes about aging/sexist husbands, awkward teen and toy years and almost any other stereotypically feminine life phase you can imagine.
Despite its narrow focus, there are some hilarious moments in the show. A sketch about uses for feminine care products after menopause was particularly funny (and inspiring – I have some ideas saved away for housecleaning in a quick pinch), as was a purse grab from the audience (I won’t spoil the surprise for you) and a ballet about the frustrations of putting on tights.
Other jokes fell flat. The “History of Women” sketch started out well, but quickly became an oversimplified timeline of women’s petty grievances. Attempts to hearken back to the character’s childhoods were fine the first and second times around, but by the seventeenth in the second act there had been enough reminiscences.
Actresses Nicole Fenstad and Melanie Wehrmacher approach their roles with zealous enthusiasm. It seems there isn’t much else for them to do with the subject matter, although it would be nice to see a little more emotional variety throughout the show (particularly geared away from their endless zany cheerleader routine).
It’s great to see theaters supporting female playwrights, all-female casts and gearing shows specifically toward their highest grossing demographic. Hollywood could take a few lessons there. But I can’t help wishing that instead of creating a cheesy homage to women’s stereotypical irritations, Girls Only could have been an emotionally varied, generation- and sexual orientation-inclusive exploration of more profound “feminine” themes than hating on Victoria’s Secret. There are a lot of good ideas here- they just need a deeper, subtler execution.
Girls Only is clearly a demographic show, made with the ABC (Anoka-Blaine-Coon Rapids) mother crowd in mind, and it is highly successful for that audience. As for the rest of us? We’ll have to wait for the next time around.
+ Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women continues through Sunday, March 18 at the New Century Theatre. For more information visit hennepintheatretrust.org.