BWW Review: Beware of Office Workers Bearing Chainsaws: THE SECRETARIES at Profile Theatre
Remember the movie 9 to 5? Now picture it with chainsaws. Add in a very heavy dose of internalized sexism, and you'll come close to having THE SECRETARIES, written by the comedy troupe Five Lesbian Brothers, aka Maureen Angelos, Babs Davy, Dominique Dibbell, Peg Healey, and Lisa Kron.
THE SECRETARIES tells the tale of Patty Johnson, a young woman just out of secretary school who joins the ranks at Cooney Lumber Mill (in Big Bone, Oregon -- not a real place) only to discover that her fellow office workers communicate in a strange clicking and laughing language, live on SlimFast, and once a month whack a lumberjack in a bloody ritual (whose real motivation is likely that they get to eat solid food). The fast-paced horror comedy is now playing as part of Profile Theatre's Lisa Kron/Anna Deavere Smith.
The important thing to remember when you watch THE SECRETARIES is that it was written in 1994. This is important because there's a lot that's difficult to watch -- and I don't mean the chainsaw massacre. I mean the cruelty of how the women treat one another. Not that women are any less cruel to one another today, but some things that might have been funny-mean two decades ago now seem just plain mean. It makes you wonder why they turn the chainsaw on the only male character, who's also the only nice character, rather than on their true oppressor.
The best part of this production is its spot-on acting. The five-person cast kills it in their portrayal of the highly caricatured characters. Among the secretaries, there's Patty, the new girl who isn't as innocent as she seems (Claire Rigsby); Dawn, the aggressive lesbian with a thing for straight girls (Jamie M. Rea, who also plays Buzz, the lumberjack); Ashley, the high-strung jealous former-cheerleader teacher's-pet type (Kelly Godell); and Peaches, the meek victim of constant body shaming (Jen Rowe). At the top of the work and social hierarchies is Susan (Andrea White), the den mother/dominatrix who the secretaries both idolize and fear. All of the actors approach their roles with gusto, especially Godell, for whom the role could have been written, and Rowe, whose long-time-coming primal scream is a definite highlight.
Overall, I enjoyed THE SECRETARIES. I did find some of the content dated, but I loved the performances, the technical aspects (especially Jen Raynak's sound design), and the many throwbacks to the '90s.
THE SECRETARIES runs through July 1. Details and tickets here.