Boy, do I remember what it was like to be the new gal around the office – to not have the routine down yet, to get sneered at for ordering from wrong place for lunch (“We don’t use them ever since the egg salad incident . . . but that was before your time”) or to be thought of as stuck up for taking lunch alone in the park . . . or (even worse) not taking a cigarette break with the other girls from the admin pool. One false step and you’re branded some sort of outcast who thinks she’s better than everyone else. Offices can be tough, and a Clique of Secretaries who treat the office like High School all over again can be murder. And in this new production of The Five Lesbian Brothers’ 1994 dark comedy The Secretaries(directed by Mark Finley) Murder is exactly what it is.
In the mill town of Big Bone, Oregon opportunities are scarce so you’ll take the best job you can get – even if you’ve got advanced degrees and a decently high IQ. When we first meet The Secretaries of the Cooney Lumber Company they’re as synchronized as Swiss watches. They speak in stereo, have the same goals and dreams (among them – To be Secretary of the Month), and all gulp down that can of Slim-Fast for breakfast lunch and dinner (although for some it goes down a littler easier than for others). When newbie Patty (Elizabeth Whitney) arrives on the scene she’s at first confounded by, but also mesmerized by the shorthand these gals have with each other. Will she ever fit in?
As the days move forward (the passage of time is marked on the “_______ days with out an accident” chart) the clique grows a little more ominous with each day. There’s the typical “All About Eve” type backstabbing: Girls are quick to point out each other’s flaws – pleasantly plump Peaches (Elizabeth Bell) is so distraught by her own inability to fore go the “sensible dinner” which the Slim-Fast meal plan recommends that she actually asks to be punched every time she’s observed eating solid foods. Alpha Bitch Ashley (Karen Stanion) who’s been secretary of the month every month running now has to hand over her crown to Patty which obviously drives her a little crazy.
This play simultaneously celebrates and skewers the female rituals – and all of them are represented here, from the desire to dress alike to the sudden way every moment is spent together to the odd physiological mystery of how women who stick with each other long enough all wind up on the same cycle. There are slumber parties, games of twister, impromptu bi-curious experiments with the resident lesbian, Dawn (Virginia Baeta) and they’re all lead by – and in league with – their boss Susan (Jamie Heinlein) who gives them pointers on how to dress, what to do, where to go . . . and ultimately even makes them sign contracts promising they’ll stay celibate.
So, what happens when five woman who don’t have an unexpressed thought hit that certain day of the month? Why hasn’t there ever been more than 29 days without an accident? How did these gals all wind up with a Lumberman’s jacket? What’s the little secret that keeps them all so bonded? What’s the best way to get blood out of a towel? And what is that chainsaw doing in the corner?
Fun from start to finish The Secretaries will make you laugh at old stereotypes, new rituals, and the concept of how far one will go just to fit in.
VENUE #12: Lucille Lortel Theatre