Review: THE SECRET COMEDY OF WOMEN Unboxes Truths Through Wit and Laughter

The hilarity of THE SECRET COMEDY OF WOMEN is anything but a secret. This is a two-woman, interactive masterpiece. Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts. July 6-31.

By: Jul. 25, 2022
Review: THE SECRET COMEDY OF WOMEN Unboxes Truths Through Wit and Laughter

You may have heard the sentence there is strength in numbers. You might even have your own personal example of why you believe this is true. Well, after seeing Philip Roger Roy's production of The Secret Comedy of Women, here is my example: a theater full of women collectively laughing at their young confusion, cringing at their own awkwardness, and celebrating their successes, together. With "comedy" being in the show's title, of course we all were expecting some laughs, but not like this. The Secret Comedy of Women, written by Barbara Gehring and Linda Klein, invites every woman as an individual and all of us together to think about our journeys from girlhood to womanhood.

Upon entering the theater at the Eisemann Center, I was greeted by female pop music and a stage covered in pink; it was incredible. Already on stage were the two stars of the show, Barbara Gehring as Girl 1 and Linda Klein as Girl 2. To watch these incredible authors perform in their own work was a privilege, and seeing them already on stage and in character made me even more excited for the show to begin. Although we thought we were ready to watch the performance, we soon realized we weren't. To our rescue was Girl 1, running alongside the center seating area to squirt some Jergens lotion on our hands while shouting "you'll smell like the 70s!" In this moment, before the show even began, I was invested in the world of Girl 1 and Girl 2 and was ready to celebrate and laugh at my own female vulnerabilities.

The performance began as the two girls sat on a bed in the over-the-top girly bedroom, both of them looking at magazines full of supermodels and giggling. Of course this led to jokes about self-comparisons and how advertisements rarely represent the looks of real women, but it also led to the first musical number about bras. I won't spoil the message; I will just say that it will always be a part of me! This comedic opening to the show encouraged the audience to let loose and laugh at these shared experiences between women, but it also highlighted the underlying truth that we all are aware of unrealistic body standards for women in society. The strategic pairing of comedy and truth occurred throughout the entire show. Each time I found myself laughing, I was also reflecting on my own experiences and being mindful of the good and bad that came with them. The Secret Comedy of Women gives the audience the gift of a comedic lense to examine the truths of the transition from girlhood and womanhood, addressing topics such as societal expectations, heartbreak, rejection, awkwardness, and the constant battle to feel emotionally and physically safe.

As the womanly truths kept spilling, so did the hilarity. The girls shifted from scene to scene, transitioning to various costumes designed by Bobby Kean, and transporting us to different moments in their journeys to womanhood. Gehring and Klein shared entries from their authentic diaries, some making us laugh and others making us hurt. There was an incredibly informative puppet show detailing the history of women, the puppets as silhouettes in the midst of Charles MacLeod's lighting. We watched film clips, listened to songs, learned about puberty, found new uses for feminine products, and commiserated as Girl 1 and Girl 2 struggled, somehow gracefully, to pull their tights up to their waists. With each collective laugh from the audience, individual women became closer, turning to one another and laughing together. It was beautiful.

Barbara Gehring and Linda Klein are an unstoppable force when on stage together. Yes, each woman is independently talented, but the chemistry they have on stage is unlike anything I've seen. Each of Gehring's lines, movements, and mannerisms relied on Klein's and vice versa, which is a reminder of the privilege to get to see these two artists perform their own work. Surprisingly, Girl 1 and Girl 2 weren't the only characters in the show...there were audience members involved! Sharing the specifics would spoil the fun, so I will just say this: be ready for anything, especially if you are sitting at the end of a row! It was clear that any audience member who joined the show was happy to play a part, which is just another example of the community this brilliant performance fostered in the audience. Also, Gehring and Klein's improvisation skills were showcased multiple times throughout the show, making each performance different. What a treat to be able to go back a second time and see something new!

The skilled acting and playful participation of the audience members are what made this show so whimsical, and Liza Orzolek's gorgeous design of the set and selection of props allowed all of the action to happen. The items in the bedroom on stage were intentional, many of them coming from the authentic childhoods of Gehring and Klein. To signal a change of scene, the lights would dim or completely disappear, and then we would be transported to another moment on our womanly journey. The set allowed the quick and effective change of scenery while also concealing the next twist from the audience's eyes. It was an impressive use of the space, and I was surprised each time Girl 1 and Girl 2 took us to another moment in their lives.

This show made me proud to be a woman. Gehring and Klein invited us to acknowledge all of the hilarious, embarrassing, heartbreaking, and scary experiences that come along with being a woman, and it was a joy to do this with the support of a crowd of women. We were reminded of the pain of rejection and betrayal, the hilarity of young awkwardness, and the excitement of feeling love for the first time; it was freeing to think about these memories and laugh. What made this such a special performance, though, is that we knew that every other woman in the theater had those impactful experiences, too, and was laughing right beside you-with you-instead of at you.

The Secret Comedy of Women is a comedy and a club meeting. What club, you ask? A club full of women who have shared experiences, who choose to laugh at the good and bad, and who celebrate this unique life that only a woman could understand. Don't miss out on this interactive, uplifting performance. And remember, "you don't need a miracle...You are a sexy thing!"

Details: Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts July 6-31. Purchase tickets through the Eisemann Center website. Run time: roughly 90 minutes including one 15-minute intermission. To learn more about the show, visit the Girls Only Comedy website.

Photo Credit: Tony Shapiro

Production Stage Manager: Michelle E. Vasquez

Tech Director: Troy Carrico

Production Supervisor: Ashley J. Nickas


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