The current show at the Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre is the award winning Caryl Churchill serious comedy, "Top Girls". It takes place in 1982 and is about Marlene's dream life, work life and home life. The first scene is a surreal dinner party for five mythical and literary women of the past which is hosted by Marlene, the newly promoted head of London's Top Girls employment agency. It sets in motion an examination of the perennial question, "Can women have it all?" The rest of the show takes the audience back to the reality of both the work place and home front with unflinching honesty and compassion. Complex themes of success and sacrifice, career and contentment, capitalism and feminism collide in this provocative piece of theatre. Director Wendy Overly casts these roles with seven excellent actresses and all of them shine in their interesting and diverse roles.
Wendy also makes the woman change their costumes and the set quickly during the show to keep it flowing smoothly all night long. Although the first scene is ambiguous with Marlene at a dinner party with women of history and legend, it makes sense as the scenes unfold. Their tales of woe show the audience how barren and unfullfilling Marlene's life is in comparison to their lives. Marlene is superbly played by Jeanine Kane with a fantastic British accent. She makes this seemingly cold businesswoman into a three dimensional person in her confrontation scene with her sister where you found out the secrets of their past. She has great chemistry with all the other performers in the show.
The other six actresses play multiple roles in the show. In the first scene at Marlene's dinner party they appear as the women of history and legend with fabulous British, Japanese, Italian and German accents. All the gorgeous costumes are by David Howard who always does a sensational job with period pieces. The figures from history are Isabella Bird, a British world traveler is played by Rae Mancini, Lady Nijo, a Japanese courtesan and later a Buddhist nun is played by Casey Seymour Kim, Pope Joan is played by Karen Carpenter while the legend women are Patient Griselda, the obedient wife from the Canterbury Tales played by Nehassaiu deGannes and Dull Gret from a Brueghel painting leading women fighting in hell played by Tray Gearing who elicits many laughs as the barbaric woman who grabs food and drink and doesn't utter a line for a long time in this scene. Wendy keeps the pace moving throughout the show but especially in this scene with overlapping dialogue by the characters as they compete with each other for Marlene's attention.
Rae and Casey also play Marlene's sister, Joyce and niece, Angie. They play bitter characters in the first act and by the end of the show, you comprehend the reasons for their anger. While the character of Marlene is beautiful, Joyce is dowdy and unkempt. Joyce despises Marlene for leaving her at home with their parents and the dimwitted, Angie. Rae captures the bitchiness of Joyce and she and Jeanine make the argument segment crackle with intensity. Joyce's horrible treatment and vile name calling of her daughter is startling to behold until you find out the reason for it. Casey who does an expert Japanese accent as Lady Nijo, is phenomenal as the 15 year old Angie who wants to kill Joyce and live with Marlene in London. She and her playmate, Kit keep hiding from Joyce so Angie won't have to clean her room. Jillian Blevins handles the role of Kit with ease, wearing pigtails and purple sneakers and delivers many funny lines in this role.(She also appears as the waitress in the dinner party segment.)
The Top Girls workers, Win played by Karen and Nell played by Nehassaiu interview the women seeking employment, a 46 year old Louise with 21 years of experience played by Tray and a 21 year old Shona with no experience played by Jillian. Their interactions are hilarious and their facial expressions are too. Nehassaiu also plays the unambitious Jeanine in Act 1 who is only interested in marrying her boyfriend and Tray also plays an indignant, Mrs Kidd who is upset that Marlene has taken the job her husband, Harry should have. This interchange is another laugh out loud moment when Jeanine as Marlene tells Mrs. Kidd to piss off. So be sure to catch this show for a top night of top notch acting in "Top Girls" at The Gamm.