Mac Cow Theater
By Caryl Churchill
Directed by Tony Simotes
It’s always nice to get the girls together for a dinner party that spans the centuries. Now, these aren’t the A-listers, but that’s makes them a bit more interesting. Hosting this inter-century wing ding is the gregarious Marlene (Cynthia Beckert). She’s got the wine and hors de oeuvres ready, and she tortures the waitress (Ashleigh Gardner) with rapid fire instructions. We meet Pope Joan (Sara Oliva) from the 11th century, Lady Nijo (Amanda Decker) from 12th century Japan, the silent Dull Gret (Allison Piehl) and the indominable Scotswoman Isabella (Karel Wright) who seems ready to whup the locals with little more than her umbrella and a second-hand bible. The story flies in a rapid crossfire, and we quickly hit all the high points of men and opportunity and just why they check a new Pope to see if he’s really a he. After all, the Vatican would never tolerate a scandal. It’s a party we all would love to attend, but what is its purpose?
Act Two bring us into the modern world of British real-sex politics. Men are always preferred in the professions, successful women despised, and why don’t you have children yet? Under Marlene’s gruff exterior, we find an even tougher interior when we discover there is some good old fashion scandal buried in here past. There’s a niece with limited options, a sister-in-law with even fewer, and there seems only mutually exclusive set of outcomes for the female:- mother hood filled with endless labor and social stagnation, or finical success against great odds, derision from her peers, and a loveless life of business and propriety.
It’s a rapid-fire show; the after talk went into some detail about the challenges the script presented that came down to everyone must know everyone else’s lines, or none of this will make sense. The tie between the two halves of the show came out in the talk back; and it’s not obvious at first. They handed me the key to this minor kingdom with the thought all the grand ideas in Act One were reduced to daily practicalities in Act Two. It’s a whirlwind of a production, and the skill of the cast on stage rose to the complexity author Churchill created in the page. There’s plenty of wine on stage, and you can get your own in the lobby. Those women on stage need all the courage they can get.