Estrogenius Festival (10/08/2010)
Considering how many women pursue a career in theater, it seems perplexing that so few women-centered plays or female directors make it to the stage. This was the problem Fiona Jones set to resolve when she created the Estrogenius Festival as a showcase of women in theater... a decade ago. With much of the theater industry still dominated by male voices and visions, this festival provides women a chance to step out from the sidelines and into the spotlight.
I attended the second week of the festival's short plays (for the first four weeks of the festival a different rotation of works are shown). The standout of the evening was “All Mapped Out,” a piece focusing on a lesbian couple, Hannah and Joni, at a crossroads in their relationship: Joni wants to move in together whereas Hannah is still approaching their commitment with caution. The two are en route to their therapist’s office for another session of couple’s therapy in Hannah’s new vehicle, which is equipped with a state-of-the-art GPS system replete with the voice of a British woman, whom Hannah has dubbed "Emily." (When Joni lampoons her naming the GPS system, Hannah points out that Joni named her car “Porsche DiRossi.")
While the drive begins on a cheery note, things quickly turn ugly as Joni confronts Hannah about her hesitancy towards co-domestication. As the couple’s relationship takes a turn for the worse, so does their drive; Hannah misses a turn and Emily begins to inform them of their need for recalculation, her directions mirroring the relationship’s misdirections. As the argument worsens, eventually leading to screams and a breakup, Emily advises them to drive straight off a cliff.
Writer Paula Marinac shows an ear for snappy, laugh-inducing dialogue, and director Alexandra de Suze times each punch line perfectly, milking every possible guffaw. Actors Cheryl Orsini and Candice Myers also are convincing in their roles. In a theater scene dominated by men, “Mapped Out” is a nice escape.
The other standout of the evening was “Little Goldie and the Shines,” directed by Lexi K. Hubb and written by Kay Poiro. It is a psychological thriller where a present day woman suffers from reoccurring nightmares in which she fronts a sixties girl group that is heading for an ill-fated flight. Tension mounts as the woman becomes increasingly unable to distinguish what is real and what is a dream. The cast for the work convincingly portrayed the mounting emotional drama of the work.
The other fare on the night I attended included three cleverly written short plays. "The Open Door," written by Hana Mironoff and directed by Kathleen O’Neil, focuses on a teenage prankster in Victorian England; "Crossing Borders" depicts a pair of mice debating whether they should pursue a life of intellectual stimulation by taking up residence in a Border’s bookstore; and "Wrong Planet," written by Dori Appel and directed by Dina Epshteyn, explores how one man’s struggle with autism presents challenges for his dating life. While some works were more engaging than others, all showed great originality, taking the short play form in new directions. The audience in the small, sold out venue maintained rapt attention throughout each work.
The Estrogenius Festival runs through October 29th, and the last week of the festival features audience-seleced encore performances of the best of all the short plays.