Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Early Girl (again)

So,I've been thinking about the production of Caroline Kava's "The Early Girl" since I saw it on Monday.** And, yes, if you didn't take my advice to go see it, you're out of luck now because it ran for only two nights.

It's one of those interesting plays that you don't see done much. I find it curious that it is so rarely done given that it is a single-set show, is very well written, is a fascinating character study, and deals with issues of employment that many people can relate to.

If I had to speculate on why this show, written in 1986, is so rarely done, perhaps it is because people are uncomfortable with the idea that the work they do could be compared to the work done by prostitutes. Or perhaps it is because these prostitutes tend to defy the usual stereotypes. They aren't all tragic and they aren't all alike. They aren't all hardened and each of them have very distinct personalities. Nor are they all mass produced from the "prostitute with a heart of gold" mold.

There were several themes in the show, but the one I found most interesting was the exploration of why people stay in a job that is soulless, exhausting, and dangerous. The reasons were different for each of the five girls and the madam, but they were ones that are by no means restricted to the profession of prostitutes. One was addicted to shopping and material things, one thought she was in love with one of the customers, the other had a child to support, and the madam was intoxicated with the idea of success and glamor.

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about the play was how it did not deliver on the expectations that the audience has about a play set in a whorehouse. The types of drama and tragedy were very human and not the type of tragedy that we expect when sitting smugly in our respectable jobs. Rather, they were the same type of dramas and struggles that any worker in any type of position must deal with.

Because it was a dark night production, the second company had to work with the set of the mainstage show--which in this case was the basement apartment of "All Childish Things." Richard joked that it was going to be a play about the best little whorehouse on Tatooine. Thankfully, one pretty quickly looked past the set. The main challenge was something that Richard said he came to love--the fact that the only entrance was up and down a flight of stairs. While it made the play a very aerobic workout for the actresses, it also created in a dramatic, unspoken way the sense of how exhausting their work was. Yes, they tell you that they are servicing 37 johns in a night, but the constant pounding up and down the stairs reinforced it.

While there were solid performances put in from everyone, I was especially impressed with the honest performance put in by Lara Bidus. She was cynical, but not hardened; aggressive, but not harsh. She also portrayed a vulnerability that only occasionally slipped out.

Knowing that Meghan Nystrom was recovering from mono and was still struggling with nose and throat issues, made the strength and energy she put into her performance particularly impressive.

Nor could the madam have been played more perfectly and with more strength than what was done by Cassie Little. She could have given any corporate executive a run for their money when it came to personnel management techniques, competitive motivational manipulations, and strict control of time off, pay, personal calls, and workplace rules.

I enjoyed the play that night and would have liked to have seen it Election Night if I wasn't already booked for Frost/Nixon (which was also an excellent experience, but you can read about my views on that show here.) I do believe that the reason this show is not staged more often can be tied to the fact that it is simply too uncomfortable for most of us to find so much similarity between the choices we make in our workplace and the choices made by working girls.

**OK, when I first started writing this blog entry, it was still the week that the play ran. I've gotten a little behind in posting.

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