Rosemary is a prickly herb that makes its presence known, announcing itself boldly wherever it shows up. Ginger, in a similar way, is another assertive flavor that’s impossible to ignore. And so it’s appropriate that Tiger’s Blood Theater’s production of Rosemary with Ginger presents the clash of two sisters who share a common past and are equally miserable in the present, but in different ways.
At a brisk 30 minutes in length, Rosemary with Ginger packs a lot of backstory into a short amount of time. As the show opens, the eponymous siblings, Rosemary (Colleen McKenna) and Ginger (Jaime Fearer), meet to nominate their mom for an Unsung Mother award, the prize for which is a $500 gift card to a department store.
Rosemary, the older of the two, is a crass, recently relapsed alcoholic who sometimes cheats on her “orangutan” of a boyfriend with her ex-husband and is in danger of losing her kids. Ginger is the more responsible of the two, but is stuck in a loveless marriage to a man who would rather masturbate to Madonna’s music video than sleep with her (the events take place in 1993, which makes this nominally less depressing) and is prone to anxiety attacks.
As you may have guessed, the play is a little light in the laughs department.
What the piece does excellently, however, is capture the ways in which our own flesh and blood are uniquely suited to knowing exactly which words will hurt us the most to hear. Anyone who’s ever fought with a sibling will understand the low-level acts of emotional terrorism taking place on stage. Perhaps the most relateable moment is when the meeker Ginger exasperatedly tells Rosemary, “You’ve got a way of making people afraid of saying what needs to be said.”
Rosemary and Ginger
by Edward Allan Baker
at Fort Fringe – The Shop
607 New York Ave NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Details and tickets
The past is very much alive in the present in Rosemary with Ginger. It becomes clear that the sins of both the father and the mother have been passed down in this clan. The action, in fact, takes place in the Peter Pan Diner, a restaurant where the sisters spent much of their young lives. That the eatery is named after a boy famous for having never grown up and has recently shut down forever hammers home the idea that the idealized days of carefree youth are long gone—if they ever existed in the first place.
What stops Rosemary with Ginger from being a truly successful production is that, while the past and present are thoroughly examined, the show never moves anything forward. Grievances are aired and issues are laid out on the table, but they’re left to just hang or sit there. For all of the soul-searching, there are no resolutions made, nothing new is uncovered.
In fact, the brief moments during which it seems that a hidden truth may be revealed turn out to just be more opportunities to inflict pain. And that’s what’s so frustrating for the audience. Over the course of a half hour we’ve grown to know and care about these two individuals and we want to see hints of what may become of them. Instead, it feels like we’re being asked to leave at intermission—the show literally ends when Ginger gets up to use the bathroom—perpetually waiting to see what happens in Act II.