BWW Review: SOMETIMES THERE'S WINE at Park Square Theatre
Women making comedy can be a radical act. The best moments of SOMETIMES THERE'S WINE at Park Square Theatre in Saint Paul are truly funny and border on radical, by offering glimpses of how real women sometimes talk to each other when no one else is listening. For theatergoers who never have access to such moments, it may be revelatory or discomfiting or embarrassing; but it will likely make others laugh in identification, as it did during the final preview I saw.
Written and performed by Shanan Custer and Carolyn Pool, this show strings together short vignettes from contemporary American life. It begins by generating sympathy for a beleaguered but resilient wait person (Pool) attempting to manage the unreasonable demands of a bevy of restaurant guests, all played in quick succession by Custer. As the evening proceeds, we meet women who apologize too much; a PTO book club hostess being subjected to mean girl tweets by other mothers; some doctor/patient interactions, including one that is wordless; a 11 year old girl and her aunt connecting in frustration at the kiddie table of a family gathering; and more.
As writers, Custer and Pool know the value of specific language arising from real circumstances, as evidenced in lines like these: "penises are not magic wands" in the restaurant scene, or "we're so sorry we're using our voices to say stuff," and "you feel like a lady-shaped dumpster fire" in a medical conversation. One of the vignettes zeroes in on words that sound lovely but mean something awful, like 'puppymills' and 'chlamydia.'
Energetic performers, the two women build off each other with crisp timing and considerable fervor. Their radical comfort with each other--even when in conflict as characters--is most apparent in a relationship that surfaces repeatedly, between two adult sisters contending with their brother's wedding. To cope with all the family drama, one of them drinks more than advisable and overshares at the toast. Later, they fight and reconcile in the expensive hotel room the other sister has bagged since she's a bridesmaid. This lengthy scene provides the finale, and the depth of the connection between the characters here helps lift the show above the pitfalls of one liner rapid fire vignette comedy. So too do moments where genuine anger about cultural misogyny (e.g., the fact that some medical plans cover Viagra but not mammograms) erupts into the evening.
Custer and Pool have managed, with the help of director Angela Timberman, to craft a show that is full of humor and humanity, where women are neither saintly nor villainous, but occasionally bitchy, sometimes kind, emotionally messy but more prone to laughter than tears, and allowed more variety than the "sassy or angry" options they name as culturally recognized. SOMETIMES THERE'S WINE is the second in a planned trilogy, and won kudos in the 2016 Twin Cities Fringe Festival. Before that came 2 SUGARS, ROOM FOR CREAM and up next will be BAD THINGS, GOOD WHISKEY. This show runs about two hours with one intermission, and plays on Park Square's basement thrust stage through October 14.
Photo Credit: Flordelino Lagundino