Uncommonly Uncommon Women

Girl Power. Although not necessarily the type of girl power the Spice Girls would have endorsed, last Saturday’s Theatre Workshop directed by Ali Rosen ’03 brought into light a more sophisticated feminist version of the expression. The play, Uncommon Women and Others by Wendy Wasserstein, serves as a discussion of female empowerment and independence from the collegiate years to adulthood by cataloguing a group of eight students’ experiences with men, love, sex, and life at and after attending Mount Holyoke College. The play begins at the end as a group of mid to late twenty year old women sit reunited around a table reminiscing about their pasts and discussing their futures. A misplaced use of an old favorite expression, namely “gross me out,” sucks the girls back into their all but forgotten days together at an all-girls college. Through flashback sequences, the audience watches each girl as she attempts to deal with female sexuality in a male dominated society. The different views of the girls contrast and often cause conflict to ensue between friends, but they all realize the connection they share as women can never be broken. Jenny Byer ’04 played the perfect, goal-oriented, well put together Kate. Byer’s portrayal of Kate shined while her acting abilities allowed the many facets of the character to show as well. Byer’s character dealt with always having a goal and purpose in life and never allowing herself to make mistakes; while Kate’s ex-roommate Leilah, played by Melanie Kress ’05, was forced to deal with the over-riding feeling of constantly being second best. One audience member Lily Kelting ’04 said of Kress’ performance, “Her understated exasperation carried through the show and gave an impression of the otherwise unstated frustrations of feminine competition.” Perhaps the most dynamic character of the show is Rita, an out-there feminist whose views on life, love, and men are quite shocking and daring. Played by Brittney Bailey ’03, Rita brought life to the stage as Bailey brought life to her character. Bailey’s character, peppered with crass and humorous remarks throughout the show, also had many valid things to say about the difficulties and challenges of being a woman in such a male oriented society. Meg Dallett ’04 played Samantha, the love-struck and eventually happily married girl whose purpose in life seems to be making her man happy. Dallett developed the character fully while not letting details impede the straightforward interpretation of the character. Susie Friend, Samantha’s zany roommate played by the hysterical Jean Marie Gossard ’05, burst on stage with bright pink pants and a winning smile. Gossard bounced around the stage spreading joy, and a little bit of annoyance at Susie’s sticky-sweet attitude. Gossard’s stage presence was perhaps the strongest of the show – a pretty tough task amidst such strong competition for the lime light. Muffet, the lonely yet strong member of the group, was played by Abbe Anderson ’03. Anderson portrayed the character wonderfully by combining just the right mixture of humor and compassion. Her charisma leapt off the stage and rubbed off on the other actors. Holly, Muffet’s companion played by Kaitlin Alsofrom ’05, exemplified the wealthy yet misguided young woman. Alsofrom’s solid performance helped move the show along as she added another dimension to the piece. Also helpful in that capacity was Mariah Russell ’04 who played Carter the freshman girl whom Kate takes under her wing. Though her character did not say much, Russell’s performance aided the plot as well as the emotional value of the show immensely. Kaitlin Ainsworth ’03 played Mrs. Plumm, the seemingly proper and well bred house mother of the whole crew. Mrs. Plumm, however, has another dimension as it is discovered that she, too, has feminist views on life. Ainsworth’s performance was immaculate and hit the nail on the head. Interspersed with the scenes of collegiate life and the reunion some years later is a man, played by Sam Beattie ’03, speaking condescendingly at a podium about the importance of the girls’ college and how many wonderful contributions women have made to the home and the world at large. This juxtaposition of the stereotypically male views with the distinctly female-oriented views of the girls exemplified the difference between female and male perceptions of the same subject. Beattie’s portrayal of the “omniscient” male was very well done and made the distinction between his character and the rest very clear. Directing all of these wonderful actors was Ali Rosen ’03, a talented actor in her own right. Rosen did a marvelous job of bringing these characters to life and making use of the limited stage area. There was never a dull or awkward moment on the Tang Stage. Her eye for the visually and audibly appealing was evident in this great work. The crew also did a marvelous job in helping the aesthetics of the piece and making sure everything ran smoothly on the night of the show. All in all, Uncommon Women and Others was a smash hit with everyone who saw it. The audience left looking forward to seeing more shows on the PA campus with such a powerful message about the society in which we live