BWW Review: WOMEN AND ONE ACTS at TAFE
In honor of Women's History Month, TAFE (Theatre Arts for Everyone) of York recently presented a program called Women and One Acts which was just that: 4 short plays about women, 2 monologues and 2 plays with multiple cast members. It was the first in the Adult Perspectives series that aims to "stimulate growth in artists and patrons and create a deeper sense of community through productions that broaden perspectives and grow awareness."
In Women and One Acts, TAFE met every one of those goals and then some.
The 4 plays were well chosen and well organized. The show opened with Mrs. Sorken, Christopher Durang's winsome play about an elderly matron explaining the legacy of Greek theater (including the relationship between "drama" and "Dramamine") to an audience who's "left their homes" to come to the theater and hear her talk. Deb Volker plays Mrs. Sorken with endearing charm. The next play, appropriately enough, is Medusa's Tale, a version of the Greek story which casts the snake-headed hag of the title as a woman just searching to someone to talk to. Brenda Dettrey's Medusa is touchingly human and her persecutors, Perseus (Jace Hamilton), Poseidon (Matt Bahn), and even the cruelly hands-off goddess Athena (Nancy Orf-Davis) all do a good job conveying their coldness towards poor Medusa. It begins to become very clear that a strong feminist theme is emerging, even if you never thought of the terrifying Medusa with any sympathy - she was, after all, raped by Poseidon, and murdered by Perseus, and in TAFE's' version of the story, it is Medusa who is the hero, not Perseus.
The next two plays also bring out some excellent performances: Amber Gamber is an over-the-top, over-achieving perfect female specimen with boundless energy and creativity who sits in her favorite chair every evening and "cries. . .but just a little." In The Most Massive Women Wins, four women sit in a cosmetic surgeon's office awaiting their liposuction procedures and telling stories about themselves - mostly about their relationships with their bodies and food, and a little bit about the people (mothers, husbands, boyfriends, bosses - society, in other words) who drove them to this unpleasant and scary moment in their lives. This play, punctuated with singsong children's chants and jump rope songs that sometimes take a turn for the cruel and taunting, is perhaps the most pointed indictment of our culture's treatment of women.
The plays use simple but effective props and costumes with a very simple set - a few large rocks and some cardboard "statues" and a temple is neatly suggestive of ancient Greece in the most scenically complex play, Medusa's Tale, and a collection of chairs and a yoga mat are about all that is needed for the others. Still, the simple production holds the audience's interest with some solid performances and a compelling theme.
After the play on Sunday, the audience was invited into a panel discussion among five mental health professionals who shared their own takes on the plays and the ways they found women's problems reflected within them. A thought-provoking discussion ensued, proving that Mrs. Sorken was right: "When we leave the drama, we return to our homes feeling great."
TAFE has a slate of children's shows coming up, starting with A Fairy Tale Times Two on March 20-22. The group also runs children's theater camps in the summer, presents traveling children's shows, and even sponsors bus trips to New York for Broadway shows. You can find more information at tafepa.org.
It's to be hoped that the Adult Perspectives series will take off. TAFE proved this weekend that their group has a lot to offer York theatregoers of all ages.
In above picture from left to right: Nancy Orf-Davis, Yetta Graves, Brenda Dettrey, Amber Gamber in The Most Massive Woman Wins