Full disclosure, I like to go see a play without any advance research. If that is your style, stop reading now and just make your plans to see this play. But if you insist to know a little more, keep reading.
How’s That Workin’ Out for Ya? is four subversive comedies by 4 playwrites with 4 actors: 3 women and 1 man. These are not subversive in an inflammatory way but more revolutionary, rebellious, and thought provoking. The four vignettes take place in a 60s era ad agency, an airport bar, a restaurant ladies room, and at the burning of a martyr in the 15th century. The strongest plays are easily the first and the last and can easily stand on their own. The sandwiched plays could use a bit more development to get them on par with the other two.
The Arena Stage violet venue is a little odd at the entrance, but once the performance starts, the audience tunes into the music that plays before, between and after the scenes and forgets any weird spacing. The changing of the scenes is in the motif of one of the strutting buxom models that hold the round count signs at a boxing match. Perfectly clever and could be exaggerated even more. Props are minimal which works for this group and content – the writing and actor’s command of the stage is that good. Costuming is coordinated and a little pink theme is running throughout almost all of the plays. In my fantasy production, costumes are tweaked a bit: go more period fashion in Mad Women and put some pink on Joan in Got a Light.
How’s That Workin’ Out for Ya?
closes July 28, 2018
Details and tickets
The plays in order of appearance:
Mad Women is easily an early episode of Mad Men with the gender stereotypes flipped. What does the corporate office feel like when roles are reversed and ad women are the executives and men are vapid happy homemakers or office boys. The coordinated outfits weere clever, but I’m left wondering if they veered away from period clothing for a reason or convenience. Powerful women parroting Mad Men-esque performance is so bizarre. Yet why isn’t it bizarre when men are in those roles?
The new masculine mystique is a new man: sophisticated, adventurous, wants to be part of the workforce. Sound familiar? The agency’s main challenge is how to create a new ad campaign for men’s briefs for this controversial new man. Imagine a man in shirt/tie and only briefs while sitting on a desk in a corporate setting. Stupid right? But we’ve seen a woman in her lacy underthings in the same portrayal. How’s that working out for ya?
Rebellion Dogs is a not very realistic conversation at an airport bar during a mass delay between three characters. I never got the title’s meaning. It takes a while to get into the story and intent. When the political disagreement arises – I groaned as I’m tired of the Trump/Clinton debate. While it’s important to the story line, the real bubbling volcano is economic insecurity and how alcohol is the tonic to soothe. Friends of Bill won’t see much reality in the remaining debate over the chip. I didn’t.
In the Ladies starts over a presumed lover’s quarrel in a restaurant ladies room. This play touched on the plight of the working woman who won’t / can’t speak up when harassed, in this case, by the restaurant owner’s son. She needs to work. Few themes emerged over whether the ends justify the means and are women really objectified if they are in on the game?
Got a Light was by far my favorite. Joan of Arc is woke and 21st century and connects easily to the themes covered in the previous plays. I don’t want to give too much away. All comedies are well written and work together logically. I’m not sure 60 minutes can fully tackle gender stereotyping, working class economic plight, or standing up for what’s right. However, unless this play comes along and provokes discussion and thought, will anything ever change? And the Lavern-Shirley remix at the end, masterful!
The actors each shine in a number of roles. If during the one play you identified a weak actor, just wait. She/he will blow you away in at least one more role during the show. I’ll pick out my favorites. Natashe-lee Loyola commands the forward thinking Jan in Mad Women. Carol Cadby as Margo slays the angry, keep the status quo, and demand sex from the inferior race executive in Mad Women. In fact, she’s uncomfortably aggressive which says more about how ridiculous the gender stereotype is when displayed flipped 180 degrees.
Kevin Dykstra delivers in all four characters he plays – I can’t pick my favorite role. However, his portrayal of a southern beauty queen is hilarious and shows everything we’ve always suspected backstage at a pageant. And last, but certainly not least, Kanysha Williams as a snappy Joan of Arc is perfection. She picks all the right places to interject 21st century language and eye-rolls into the 1400s.
I left wishing I had brought my pussy hat. All together now in your best Beyoncé moves, Who Run the World? Girls! But we’ve been waiting and fighting since at least 1431 for a universal woman leader. How’s that working out for us?
How’s That Workin’ Out for Ya? by Nicole Burton, Patricia Connelly, Jean Koppen and Ann Timmons . directed by Gabrielle Hoyt . featuring: Carol Cadby, Kevin Dykstra, Natasha-Lee Loyola, and Kanysha Williams . stage manager: Samantha Rollin . Produced by Pipeline Playwrights . Reviewed by Kelly Whealan George.