Women Laughing Alone with Salad Review - Millennial Women in Gender-Blend

Do men today see women as a function to serve them and not as a person? Do men fear becoming the thing they loathe? Is any sacrifice worthwhile to maintain the illusion of youth? Does being thin or ample define the direction of one’s life? These are some of the questions tapped in playwright Sheila Callaghan’s dark comedy as she tries to mold the intimate thoughts and fears of today’s men and women into a play which will trigger the deepest in all of us.

 

Dinora Z. Walcott, Lisa Banes, and Nora Kirkpatrick - Photo by Craig Schwartz

WOMEN LAUGHING ALONE WITH SALAD begins with three women sitting on a park bench eating salad while overcome with forced hysterical laughter - until a man joins them with a huge burrito in hand. The women’s gaping reception makes Guy (David Clayton Rogers) so uncomfortable that he hurries away. Multiple brief staccato-like scenes follow which insert the flavor for the first of two acts. Guy’s relationship with his mother Sandy (Lisa Banes) is strained. Sandy was a 70's activist who joined the mainstream when she had the audacity to become pregnant and embark on motherhood. Their Oedipal connection should send shivers down Freud’s spine. Spoiler alert - be prepared for graphic language and prolonged three-way sex scenes between Guy, bulimic girlfriend Tori (Nora Kirkpatrick), and plump pick-up Meredith (Dinora Z. Walcott). Act I seemed more than a trifle chaotic and over-long, offering lots of confused questions and no answers.

 

Dinora Z. Walcott and Nora Kirkpatrick - Photo by Craig Schwartz

The welcome surprise of the evening is Act II, when each of the four characters in Act I makes an abrupt sex change. Four years later, the three females become stereotypical swaggering men; and the one male becomes a subdued, elegantly dressed woman teetering on heels high enough to suggest imminent disaster. Guy’s mother is the latter-day Guy, while Guy now gets to sport a tailored white suit and flowing tresses. The gender-blend certainly serves to blur the boundaries between the sexes, which was probably Callaghan’s intention anyway.

 

Dinora Z. Walcott, David Clayton Rogers, and Nora Kirkpatrick - Photo by Craig Schwartz

So where does salad fit in? Salad appears to be a metaphor for self-control, status, and the subtext of shame. In fact, most of the action in this play is metaphorical with the occasional nervous chuckle slipped in. And don’t forget pills, the panacea for depressed women for whom the world sucks. In fact, Effervatol is the play’s drug of the moment and seems to go very well with laughing women and salad. As well it should in this play, where the women hate themselves and care far too much about how they look and what other people think of them. Men don’t seem to fare much better.

 

Dinora Z. Walcott - Photo by Craig Schwartz

Keith Mitchell’s scenic design was as chaotic as Act I and picked up considerably in Act II. He appeared to be in sync with the goings-on in the play. The entire production team did a good job of following the play’s pace. Salad falling from the sky didn’t hurt either.

 

WOMEN LAUGHING ALONE WITH SALAD runs through April 3, 2016, with performances at 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Sundays. The Kirk Douglas Theatre is located at 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA. Tickets range from $25 to $55. For reservations, call 213-628-2772 or go online at www.centertheatregroup.org.

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