Review: Women in Theatre Festival's Two-Handers and Monologue Slam Pack a One-Two Punch
7th Annual Women in Theatre Festival: Hybrid Two-Handers and Monologue Slam
Hybrid Two-Handers written by Eliza Bent, Kaaron Briscoe, Georgina Escobar, Amina Henry, and Erin Mallon
Monologues written by Suzanne Bradbeer, Rachael Carnes, Alexis Craig-Hart, Catalina Florescu, Julienne Hairston, Judith Leora, Francesca Pazniokas, Sally Seitz, and Lia Romeo
Directed by Michole Biancosino and Andrew W. Smith
Presented by Project Y Theatre Company via weekly pass for streaming on-demand
February 4-March 18, 2022
|Natalie Nankervis and Starr Kirkland in #GirlPowerHour. Photo by Julianna Austin|
Interestingly, whether by design or coincidence, the concept of performance forms one throughline among the Two-Handers, from the theater to streaming to IG Live to piano to a different kind of memorial service. Opening the program of short plays, Blackbox, by Amina Henry, focuses on a pair of stage actors (Starr Kirkland and Timiki Salinas), who have broken into a pandemic-shuttered theater space, in order to consider, in the context of having lost the outlet of live performance, what it is like to experience something by acting it for an audience; to create illusions using primarily one's body; and, fundamentally, to play–as well as to ask whether playing is enough. The interplay throughout Blackbox between Salinas's unflaggingly enthusiastic actor and the mingled joy and doubt of Kirkland's proves a very effective dynamic. The characters in Kaaron Briscoe's standout #GirlPowerHour are also habituated to performing for audiences. Their titular online show, though, takes place in the context of a patriarchal dystopia—although to be fair, some elements are not that far removed from our own patriarchal dystopia, as highlighted, for example, by hosts Kara (Starr Kirkland) and Christy's (Natalie Nankervis) talk of Name Givers or the commodification of "girl power" by corporate conglomerates like the one that sponsors their show. It is perhaps that sponsor that monitors the show to ensure that it stays on pink-drenched, bubbly, upbeat message, like a pre-verbal, feral version of the offstage Voice in Beckett's What Where. Nevertheless, Kara begins to have some trouble staying in the approved lane. What follows evolves via a pair of excellent performances by Kirkland and Nankervis and culminates in memorably resonant imagery.
|Starr Kirkland and Timiki Salinas in Blackbox. Photo by Julianna Austin|
|Joachim Boyle and Yadira De La Riva in Rigged. Photo by Julianna Austin|
With its Hybrid Two-Handers and Monologue Slam, the 7th Annual Women in Theatre Festival provides a platform for a range of women's voices, perspectives, tones, and approaches that together also form suggestive interconnections. Any theater fan will find much to enjoy in this collection of short works.
-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards