Presented by Theatre@First
by Caryl Churchill
Directed by Liz Adams
Review by Noelani Kamelamela
Theatre@First offers an earnest take on Caryl Churchill’s meditation on womanhood in the 1980s. The production is best in the lighter moments, when the realities of the character’s lives seem far less crushing.
Top Girls itself is not traditional, but is and was a groundbreaking piece which provides incisive snapshots of women beyond as well as within classical archetypes. A show which only represents female voices is not necessarily feminist by default, but feminism as it relates to the time as well as the past pops up regularly. Central themes such as success and sacrifice are embodied by Marlene, played effectively as a witty and ruthless vamp by Kathy-Ann Hart, who has achieved autonomy by choosing the advancement of her career over other areas of her life.
In the intimate space, the set, costumes and general tech are as minimalist as possible while still evoking the style of a different period, which allowed for cast interactions to pull the most focus. The ensemble deftly presented Churchill’s rhythms of conversation. Characters talking over or under or around one another prompted moments of misunderstanding which grounded much of the comedy. The supporting cast did an impressive amount of work, pulling double and triple duty seamlessly. Each actor served as a storyteller, taking even one word lines and imbuing them with meaning.
Theatre@First’s production proves it is terrible that this play is rarely done in full. The effort is a slicked back, straightforward rendition which begins like an acid trip and elegantly guides the audience towards sobering conclusions.
Next, Theatre@First will hold Other Halves, a staged reading of three short plays at Unity Somerville in March.