BWW Review: SHE THE PEOPLE at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
Second City's SHE THE PEOPLE at Woolly Mammoth delivers some sorely needed cathartic joy in the heart of the nation's capital. The Second City improvisational theatre troupe is famed for producing the likes of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Steve Carell, and Stephen Colbert, so you can be sure that when their name is involved you are in for high quality laughs. The stellar all female cast of Second City's SHE THE PEOPLE had me in stitches. I wouldn't be surprised to see any one of them follow in the footsteps of other Second City prodigies. And if you're one of those people who think women can't be funny, do us all a favor and buy yourself a ticket to SHE THE PEOPLE ASAP.
Spirits were high on opening night as theatre goers enjoyed complimentary wine and beer (fitting for a show described as "a mimosa-and-madness-fueled foray into 'having it all'"). The lobby was festive, as always, as many posed with card board cut-outs of powerful women like Malala Yousafzai, Hillary Clinton, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Quotations scattered across tables cut to the gravity of the situation with such lines as "If you are silent about your pain, they'll kill you and say you enjoyed it"-- Zora Neale Hurston. The #MeToo movement and TIME'S UP have elevated stories of female survival and the absurdity of our entrenched patriarchal system. We are talking about it. And, thanks to SHE THE PEOPLE, we are even laughing about it.
Prepare yourself for a 2 hour celebration of women and a rebuke of the patriarchy, with special attention paid to our current president and those in his orbit. With award-winning director Carly Heffernan at the helm, the series of sketches by, about, and for women feels coherent, urgent, and just plain fun. The ensemble made up of Atra Asdou, Carisa Barreca, Alex Bellisle, Katie Caussin, Kazi Jones, and Maggie Wilder unflinchingly tackle such hot button topics as body image, motherhood, rape culture, and the #MeToo movement.
A woman's right to choose is cleverly illustrated in a scene in which Carisa Barreca as an office worker tries to throw away a Lean Cuisine she has partially microwaved, while her co-workers pester her with lines like "Food begins at convection." The ridiculous notion that women must police their clothing choices so that men can properly focus is lampooned in a skit in which Barreca dresses in a t-rex costume and attempts to give a sales presentation. The show shines a spotlight on the #MeToo movement as Atra Asdou wakes up from a 10-year coma only to find that many of her heroes (Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, and Morgan Freeman) have been accused of rape and sexual harassment.
Toward the end of the show Kazi Jones takes on the role of our first female president, with Elizabeth Warren as VP and Beyonce as speaker of the house. The crowd burst into cheers and audience members jumped out of their seats. The theatre was euphoria incarnate. As Jones rattled off the various initiatives she would undertake (closing the wage gap, healthcare for all, eliminating college debt, ending all war) I suddenly didn't feel like laughing anymore. What can we do to realize that sublime vision? How can we overcome this patriarchal system and break the abusive cycle of systemic, insidious violence toward women?
As Chelsea Radigan and Kirsten Bowen's program note points out, we must face the following questions head on, "Who stands with women? How do we overcome and entrenched patriarchal system? In what ways do contemporary feminist movements fall short of full inclusion?" We are on the precipice of change. Of 964 candidates for Congressional and gubernatorial seats this year, 272 were women, 215 were people of color, and 26 were openly LGBTQ. Bring everyone you know to see SHE THE PEOPLE. Bring your friends, enemies, and allies. We need to scream this message from the rooftops. This is our moment. The future is female.
Running Time: Approximately one hour and 45 minutes, with one intermission.
SHE THE PEOPLE runs from December 3, 2018-- January 6, 2019. For tickets, check out Woolly Mammoth's website.
Pictured (from L to R): Carisa Barreca and Katie Caussin. Photo by Teresa Castracane