BWW Review: SHE THE PEOPLE: THE RESISTANCE CONTINUES! at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
The Second City's She the People is back at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company - this segment fully titled She the People: The Resistance Continues! The jokes and social commentary have been updated to address current events, as well as keep some evergreen topics fresh and remind us how upsetting it is that some things are considered evergreen. But, above all, She the People has a message:
"If you're uncomfortable and a man, we don't care."
It's not that She the People is hostile to men - it's just that it's much more interested in its intended audience. From the moment you enter the Woolly Mammoth Theatre, it's clear that this is a space meant for those traditionally not afforded space: women, minorities, members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Men are, of course, welcome - but this space doesn't make male comfort a priority.
The show, like most of The Second City's productions, is a compilation of songs, skits, and longer sketches that address topical political and social issues. The sharp writing team - comprised of Carisa Berreca, Alex Bellisle, Katie Caussin, Carly Heffernan, and other members of The Second City - knows their audience and happily leans into its Washington, DC audience's politico mindset, featuring references to Georgetown Prep and the sheer number of advanced degrees in the city, as well as commentary with broader appeals, such as how female politicians are expected to present and opinions on the current administration's policies.
She the People also gives audiences a window into the everyday life and perspective of women. The bachelorette party was eerily similar to one I personally attended: each woman in the group had a high-profile job (the bride-to-be was a rocket scientist for NASA) and between acts at the Chipendales they attended, the women discussed attacks on comprehensive sex education, gun control, LGBTQIA+ rights, abortion access, and Title X. Another segment, "Ovary Reaction," played with social concepts of women overreacting to things while also pointing out that there's plenty to be rightfully angry about. One sketch showed women getting ready for a night out and humorously addressed the very real dangers women face. A number of pieces addressed gun control in particular, and it was striking to hear the cast point out that the shooting the day of the opening brought the total number of mass shootings in 2019 to higher than the number of days in the year to date. And, adding impact, they reminded the audience that while gun violence is a national issue, it disproportionately impacts women.
Despite the depressing reminders and righteous anger, She the People manages to be incredibly funny. The purpose isn't to scare or depress, but to let the audience know that they aren't alone in their thoughts, fears, and concerns. It's meant to be a reflection of the realities women face every day, and to validate those realities. She the People is a reminder: no, you're not crazy, this is really happening and it's awful, but the best way to cope is to find humor in it all. The ensemble cast - which features writers Barreca, Bellisle, and Caussin as well as Kazi Jones, Sayjal Joshi, and Jo Scott - is bright, charming, and hilarious. Each member tackles these tough issues with a winning grin (but not too big - after all, you need to look genuine!), and a lot of sass. They work together seamlessly as a group, and manage to carry each bit of sardonic humor with as much aplomb as the show's lighter moments. The actresses are also each individually talented: Barreca and Joshi have incredible vocal ranges, Bellisle's dry delivery is delightful, Caussin's drill sergeant was a standout moment, Jones' chipper delivery was consistently a highlight, and Scott's impressive improv skills were on full display in her solo segment, "Debunk'd."
Supporting the cast is a solid production team. Writer-Director Carly Heffernan manages a full stage in constant motion with ease; under her direction, the transitions between sketches, vignettes, and songs never felt forced, and the continuous movement felt more natural than chaotic. Barreca also serves as assistant director and oversees the show's fun choreography. Meghan Raham's set was fun and functional, particularly when paired with Sarah Tundermann's bright and energetic lighting and projections.
I'd be remiss if I didn't encourage theater-goers to also make time before or after the show to explore the lobby, which Woolly Mammoth has decorated to carry the theme of the show: there is an entire balcony lined with famous women and their quotes, as well as a "Sw3@r In Station," stacked with books from prominent women including Michelle Obama, Roxanne Gay, Malala Yousafzai, and Chimamada Ngozi Adichie (a list of these books and more are also available in the program). Downstairs, there are Patriarchy piñatas (allowing you to smash the patriarchy, or at least give it a good whack), and - most importantly - a station with postcards to send to your elected representatives. Because, above all, She the People is a call to action. It's a reminder that women's experiences matter, and women's voices matter. And, in the words of this wonderful cast: it's about f*cking time.
The Second City's She the People: The Resistance Continues! plays at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company through January 5th. Performance run time is approximately two hours with one fifteen-minute intermission. Information on tickets, accessibility, and special performances can be found on the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company website.
Photos courtesy of Teresa Castracane.