GRRL Parts Return to UMBC

By: Mar. 05, 2011
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This is not so much a review as a tip of the hat to a show that will almost certainly be gone by the time you read this: University of Maryland Baltimore County’s GRRL Parts 2011: New Plays for Actresses, in its sixth annual incarnation (also reviewed, mostly favorably, in this space last year).  The ground rules each year: three short one-act plays in which the parts for college-age actresses predominate, with female antagonists and female protagonists.  This year there were two new commissions and one existing BBC radio play staged for the first time.  The young performers, intelligently directed by Eve Muson, did a fine job.

The plays were: Snip, by Karen Hartman, about making tough but perhaps inevitable choices as one grows, snipping off pieces of one’s character in the process, in the hope but not the promise that the lives shaped thereby are sustainable and fruitful; What Is The Custom Of Your Grief?, by Timberlake Wertenbaker, about a friendship forged in the pain of modern warfare and embodied in modern social media; and Runaways, by Ellen McLaughlin, simultaneous sketches of women throughout history driven to run away from intolerable situations.

All were worthwhile.  I was drawn literally to the edge of my seat, however, by the Wertenbaker play.  Zarghona, a young Pakistani woman (Brandi Sheppard), friends Emily, a young British woman (Erin Hanratty), on Facebook, because each has just lost a brother.  It gives little away to reveal that the brothers prove to have died on opposite sides of the same firefight in Afghanistan.  Neither of their societies, it also emerges, is particularly good at allowing sisters to grieve.  Apart from the manner of the fadeout, there was not a false or needlessly melodramatic note in the whole experience.

GRRL Parts is only part of the cutting edge nature of the UMBC theater program.  Another example, reviewed here a few months back, was the production of Lynn Nottage’s Las Meninas, which I’m advised has been invited to be performed next month at the Kennedy Center, one of four productions so honored.

My hat is tipped.

GRRL Parts 2011,  at UMBC Theatre, University of Maryland Baltimore County, 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, MD 21250, through March 6.  Tickets $10, $5 for students and seniors.  410 455-2917. . Sexual situations, explicit language.


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