Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Review: Rebeck's WHAT WE'RE UP AGAINST is Timely Feminist Satire


Theresa Rebeck's 2011 feminist play, WHAT WE'RE UP AGAINST, is set in an architectural firm, but I'm sure as a female playwright (even as a Pulitzer Prize finalist), she brought firsthand knowledge of what it's like to be a woman in a male-dominated profession.

This satirical play, currently produced by Life Force Arts, Inc. at the June Havoc Theatre, is timely as we watch the historic battle of the sexes between presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Despite the date the play was written, the main character, Eliza, endures some of the same complaints that Clinton has heard during her campaign - i.e., she isn't charming enough, quiet enough, or agreeable enough. The only other woman in the firm, who has chosen to play the game in order to be accepted (and mostly dismissed) by the boys, points out to Eliza that she needs to be "more patient."

What's most satisfying about the play is that Eliza is having none of that. She was hired by the owner of the small firm because of her talent, but she was immediately stuck in a lousy corner office and given nothing to do for five months. This is because Stu, the manager of the firm, is a drunken, misogynistic twit who is clearly intimidated by her. So, instead of giving Eliza projects to work on, he hands them to a male employee who has only been with the firm for four months.

Stu might have gotten away with this had it not been for some confounding ducts at a mall that the firm has been tasked with renovating. The other architects have been unable to come up with a solution for said ducts, so Eliza decides to come up with her own. She shows her idea to Stu, trapping him into saying the idea is good because she puts the male employee's name on it. When she tells him it's actually her idea, his bull-headed reaction turns him into the poster child for self-sabotage.

What follows is both infuriating and satisfying, as Eliza beats them with her intelligence but still remains stuck in a world where the men just don't want her around. The final scene is a funny and biting exclamation point on the end of the play's sentence, although I still found myself wanting to see more of a come-uppance for Stu and his cronies.

Rebeck's writing, Mamet-esque and tack-sharp, is a pleasure to behold. This production, directed by Lorca Peress, is well done with standouts in the cast, Lesley McBurney as Eliza and Ean Sheehy as her smart but cowardly colleague, Ben.

Performances of the 80-minute WHAT WE'RE UP AGAINST continue at the June Havoc Theatre, 312 West 36th Street, on Tues., 10/25 at 7:00pm; Wed., 10/26 at 7:00pm; Thurs., 10/27 at 7:00pm; Fri., 10/28 at 7:00pm (Benefit Performance); Sat., 10/29 at 2:00pm and 7:00pm. Tickets are $18.00 (general seating) and $12.00 (students), and available at or by calling (212) 352-3101. For more on the production, visit

Photo by Jimmy Mendez

Related Articles View More Off-Off-Broadway Stories

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes & More

From This Author Melanie Votaw