When The Atlantic published Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” in 2012, I had just finished a year of coursework for my doctorate and her perspective triggered a storm of conversations among my friends and colleagues.
Even though we discussed the piece in detail and read the comments that were posted (there are now 2,695), it never occurred to us to do what Fully Charged Productions has: to make a musical about Slaughter’s viewpoints.
Performed by a devoted cast of alumni from the National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts, this show presents many short scenes describing one woman’s transformation from overwhelmed to overjoyed.
Fully Charged has taken some liberties with Slaughter’s theories, perhaps due to time (the show runs one hour) or this distinct format, but the gist of her argument remains. Each woman needs to be able to carve her own balance between career, family, and fulfillment. As Slaughter writes, “One of the most complicated and surprising parts of my journey out of Washington was coming to grips with what I really wanted.”
In Fully Charged’s version of the story, Ann, the woman seeking transformation, is played by Alanna Mensing. She goes to Barbara (Susan S. Porter), a life coach who oversees a process of “Barbarization” which helps women manage the discombobulating feeling of being “pulled in too many directions at once.”
The audience is given a glimpse into Ann’s home life (screaming kids, spacey husband, the couple is recently separated) as well as that of Manny, Barbara’s assistant (José Pineda).
How to Have It All
by Ricardo Frederick Evans, Leigh Anna Fry, Jessica North Macie, Cristen Stephansky, Damia Torhagen
at Fort Fringe – The Shop
607 New York Ave NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Details and tickets
Just about every scene features a song (the composers are Larry Farrow, Lynn Ritland, Damia Torhagen, and Mensing) and the cast includes some stellar voices, particularly Pineda and Mensing. Other characters compensate for less powerful singing voices with their acting skills and witty timing. Torhagen is both a great singer and actor, especially terrific as Diva, a vixen who unsuccessfully tries to seduce Manny and who makes visible a woman’s choice to play the role of initiator. Dane C. Petersen plays a bunch of roles with great facility, from Manny’s mother to Clark, a rich and arrogant man at Ann’s “single mingle.”
While the show, directed by Ricardo Frederick Evans, is enjoyable, certain characters appear more like caricatures than actual people, and this reduces some scenes to gimmicks rather than thought-provoking performances. It also seems incongruous with the concept that drove its creation because Slaughter’s perspective is that each woman be allowed to make her own decisions and follow her life-choices.
One of the highlights of Having it All is a duet sung by Ann and Manny that explores the question “who am I?” It’s a wonderful moment in the performance when they answer: “I am free. I am me.”