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          People would much rather be entertained than educated. That's why we spend more time playing World of Warcraft and attending Ravens games than we do reading The Canterbury Tales or watching PBS. The key to reaching an audience is to keep them amused while slipping in those valuable life lessons "under the radar," so to speak.

It's a lesson playwright ALena Smith has taken to heart with her work, "The Lacy Project," now at The Strand Theater in downtown Baltimore.  Smith, in the program's "Playwright Forward," notes that this is her first "real" play, designed to present to audiences "a picture of young, contemporary femininity from a variety of angles."  

It's a play about what it's like to be a young woman in the 21st century, and how, despite the Hip Hop and heroin, sexual experimentation, career pressures and more, it's still the same story that's been going on since there have been women on this planet--"the dynamics between girlfriends, between mothers and daughters, between young women and their own self-images," Smith writes.  

Explore these issues within the musty confines of a university hall, and you may nod off to sleep. But do it on stage with "characters and situations that live on a borderline between realism and hyper-realism," and you've got folks on The Edge of their seats.

Smith knows that it is through play that children begin to form conceptions of self-identity and an understanding of she cleverly brings two dolls to life, each one representing a different aspect of the feminine--Olivia (Jen Anthony), the pretty princess in a bright and frilly dress, the store-bought doll, and Harriet (Amelia Adams), the "cow maid," fashioned from a piece of burlap. The female roles here are clear--on the one hand, superficial beauty, on the other, modesty and utility, but Smith isn't satisfied with these stereotypical female roles. 

Olivia is no empty-headed Barbie; she yearns to wear something different, but her "dress is sown to my skin." Harriet's no bumpkin as her attempts at "performance art," fashioning a penis from her "corn husk," express her desire for a different identity. And, as you can imagine, the interplay between these two characters is often quite comic, as refined, Baron-dating Olivia refers to Harriet as "ho," and Harriet contemplates adopting Olivia's pink balloon "baby."

Olivia and Harriet are also actually dolls, the property of Lacy (Lauren Lakis), a woman-child and trust-fund baby who excitedly awaits the arrival of her internationally acclaimed artist-photographer mother from France on the eve of her 22nd birthday. Olivia and Harriet are mirrored by Lacy's two real life friends, Giselle (Britt Olsen-Ecker), a drug-addicted, love forlorn hip-hop video artist (kudos to the Strand's costume designer for Giselle's kaleidoscope outfit, a mix of Phyllis Diller meets cowgirl stripper meets a Christmas tree) and fellow heiress, and Charlotte (Leah Raulerson), a, practical, working woman and aspiring photographer who is Lacy's roommate.

Lacy represents every daughter's desire to remain just that--a daughter, warm in the embrace of a loving mother, to escape the irresistible force which is age, and the reality where mothers aren't perfect, and may have agendas of their own...just like friends so often do, as we learn in Raulerson's portrayal of Charlotte.

While I found the characters somewhat "larger than life," one audience member who approached me after the show observed that the struggles portrayed on the stage were very much "what young women today have to deal with." Which, of course is the point of the play, and extremely well executed by the entire cast--the result being an entertaining and educational night of theater.


The Lacy Project continues at The Strand, 1823 North Charles Street, this Thursday, Feb. 25th at 8 p.m. (college night, students pay $3), and concluding this coming weekend, Friday and Saturday, Feb. 26th and 27th at 8 pm. Tickets are  $15.  Students, Seniors, and "Broke" are $10. Tickets can be reserved by calling 443-874-4917 or online at Enter online code: BROKE to receive discount. Tickets are available one hour prior to each performance at the Strand box office. Visit for more information.

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From This Author Daniel Collins