The Happiest Medium Review by guest contributors Anjali Koppal and Saurabh Paranjape
We like anthologies because they’re the artistic equivalent of a buffet – you set expectations low and pile your plate high in the hope that you like more things than you don’t like. And of course, when you bite into something delicious like we did with Wide Eyed Productions’ A Girl Wrote It, you realize why buffets are worth it in the first place.
A Girl Wrote It is an evening of four one-act plays, colored in varying shades of grey, with one underlying theme – they’re all written by women. In Clementine (by Lynda Green, directed by Jerrod Bogard) an unusual hostage situation leads to some honest soul searching. Selection (by Kris Montgomery, directed by Tim Butterfield) follows two couples debating natural selection in a dystopian future where an individual’s right to procreation is governed by their IQ scores. The Return Of Toodles Von Flooz (by Lisa Ferber, directed by Kristin Skye Hoffmann), is a delightful tribute to film noir that follows a proselytizing former ‘sinner’ who has a hilarious tryst with her past, and rounding out the night is Plight Of The Apothecary (by Elizabeth Birkenmeier, directed by Justin Ness), a delirious and twisted story of seemingly ageless siblings slowly losing their marbles in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. And tying all these disparate performances together is the delightful Liz White as the MC / collective voice of the show’s female playwrights, channeling Kathy Griffin by way of Woody Allen and David Mamet, and somehow making it work.
The stories by themselves were somewhat hit or miss (though definitely far more hit than miss). Plight Of The Apothecary, which was filled with one too many moments of absolute incoherence (for us, at least), ended up being more frustrating than intriguing, while Clementine felt like it was trying to pack in too many punches into its short run time, without breaking any new ground. On the flip side, The Return Of Toodles Von Flooz was probably the most fun we’ve had in a theater in a long time (and it’s safe to say the crowd agreed), while Selection brought up some very intriguing moral quandries without ever feeling forced or drawn out.
In spite of the humble setting (the theater seated no more than 30-35 people by our count), the production values were top notch, and everything from the direction to the sets to the lighting was very professional and unintrusive (if you discount the rather bizarre animated backdrop in Plight Of The Apothecary). However, where the show really won ours hearts was with the pulsating energy and charm that the performers brought to their roles. The entire acting ensemble deserves high praise for giving all their stories such vibrant life, but special mention has to go to Lisa Mamazza of Toodles Von Flooz as a vivacious, gin loving siren, who serves up the show’s most crackling lines with enough oomph to make Bette Davis proud, and moderator Liz White, whose immaculate comic timing is the stuff of theater gold.
All in all, A Girl Wrote It is the kind of show that theater exists for. It’s witty, eccentric, and takes some daring chances. It doesn’t always succeed, but definitely makes you fall in love with theater all over again. Highly recommended!
~~~A GIRL WROTE IT An Evening of One-Act Plays by Women Playwrights . The Red Room 85 East 4th Street (between 2nd Ave and Bowery) Plight of the Apothecary By Elizabeth Birkenmeier Directed by Justin Ness The Return of Toodles Von Flooz By Lisa Ferber Directed by Kristin Skye Hoffmann Clementine By Lynda Green Directed by Jerrod Bogard Selection By Kris Montgomery Directed by Tim Butterfield . Running until February 20, 2011 Thursday through Saturday at 7pm and Sundays at 2pm Click Here for tickets ($18/$15 students) or by call Smarttix at 212-868-4444.