Review: "Bury Me in My Leggings" Eschews Easy Answers

Bury Me in My Leggings

Written by Scarlett Grace McCarthy

Directed by Margaret Baughman

Presented at The Tank

312 W. 36th St., Manhattan, NYC

August 22, 2019


While the the inextricability of brand loyalty from consumers' (and employees') personal identities is by now ubiquitous, companies such as Apple, SoulCycle, and Lululemon, corporations that lend themselves easily to the public signification of a certain "lifestyle," offer particularly clear examples of this phenomenon Scarlett Grace McCarthy's new play, Bury Me in My Leggings, part of the third annual LadyFest, featuring new work by woman-identified artists at The Tank through August 28th, takes us back to an earlier point in that development, to what seems like the distant past of the summer of 2007, as the iPhone is about to make what one character calls humorously but not inaccurately its "historic" debut. Inspired by a true event in 2011, McCarthy's play focuses on a small group of twenty-somethings who work at the ironically named SoulCycle analog Humbility and the Genius Bar at the adjacent Apple Store. Although Bury Me in My Leggings certainly captures the dynamics of working in these kinds of retail environments, its settings are ultimately a catalyst for an examination of guilt, forgiveness, self-perception, and their impact on people's selves and relationships.

The play opens on the first day of work at a Humbility in San Diego for Jennifer (Delaney Spangler), who comes across as mild and eager to be accepted into what she sees as the "real family" at Humbility (a description that she uses more than once in the play's first half). Lea (Lina Marie) is a store veteran who describes herself as so off-brand that she is on-brand and is not above pranking the new girl. Lea is second-in-command to all-business manager Angela (Terrease Aiken), and Jennifer quickly learns that being on-brand is not optional at this job when she wears leggings to work that didn't come from Humbility and Lea must convince her to take a pair from the damaged bin in order to avoid getting in trouble with Angela. Angela does some preliminary flirting with Chester (Nathan Simpson), who works at the Genius Bar with Larry (Julien Martin Hawthorne) and uses empty iPhone-related promises to enhance his dating life. Angela notices the register and inventory have been off more than once, and while Lea suggests that Jennifer head the "Run Club," it also doesn't take Jennifer long to get written up for being late, even though she tells Lea that she is isolated in her personal life and really needs the job.

These seemingly minor problems come to a head at the end of the first half of the play that elicited a gasp from the audience, and the second half jumps ahead a year and takes place at a spa and retreat in Malibu, the kind that involves public sharing and a theoretically purifying three-day hike with no vices such as coffee or cigarettes allowed. The retreat is run by Nick (Andrew Hutcheson), who tends to communicate in the bullying tones of a motivational speaker and is not only Madonna's former shaman (according to Lea, anyway) but also Chester's long-lost father. Chester himself is in attendance (and in a track suit that matches Nick's), as are Lea and a woman named Holly (Thanh Ta), who is more interested in Chester as husband material than in personal healing. Lea and Chester are both still dealing with what happened at Humbility the previous summer, but both are resistant to share their feelings, paralleled in Chester's case by his refusal to share his water with Lea on the hike. In the end, Bury Me in My Leggings does not offer tidy resolutions, but it does offer a reprise of Run Club that transforms it into a symbol of perseverance—and, given the call-and-response involved, just perhaps, connection.

The characters who populate Bury Me in My Leggings act and react like real people with complex, conflicting internal motives, an impression that is bolstered by excellent performances from the cast. Holly, for example, primarily acts as comic relief, but Ta plays Holly's traumatic story of her high-school friend's death completely straight, adding extra dimension to the character (Ta is also very funny, though not to Jennifer, as a pair of entitled Humbility customers in the play's first act). Chester may be a player who is very proud of his rowing regimen, but Simpson imbues him with an honest, affecting sensitivity in scenes in which he tries to repair a relationship with his mother than has been damaged by what happened at Humbility. Hutcheson's Nick effectively walks a blurry line between being a blowhard and having a good point, much as Aiken's Angela has a likeability that can sit uneasily with her strict, no-nonsense managerial style. Even low-key Larry starts working out but gives no sense that he is going to become a second Chester; and Spangler and Marie both complicate our initial impressions of their characters in ways that feel organic.

Lea's guilt over not having the feelings that others expect her to have acts as a counterpoint to Chester's experience and anchors the second half of the play. Both parts of the play, which moves at a good pace through mostly short scenes with period-appropriate interstitial music, feature moments when characters express their dreams and aspirations, and it is instructive how those have altered between their earlier and later iterations for Lea and Chester. In tracing this journey, Bury Me in My Leggings digs into its characters with humor and heart—and sometimes while holding a yoga pose.

-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards

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