Monday, June 15, 2009

Review - The Secretaries (Project: Theater & The 78th Street Theatre Lab)

Review by Byrne Harrison

"We don't kill them because they're bad. We kill them because we're bad."

What do you think of when you hear the word secretary? I'm willing to bet that the image that pops into your mind has nothing to do with the chainsaw-wielding, SlimFast-guzzling, sexually ambiguous ladies that populate The Five Lesbian Brothers' The Secretaries. It might be a little scary if it did. But once you experience these secretaries, you may never look at yours the same way again.

Patty (Jessi Blue Gormezano) is the new girl at Cooney Lumber Mills. Head of her class in secretarial school, she landed this plum assignment working with Peaches (Laura Dillman), Dawn (Karis Danish), Ashley (Jenny Schutzman), and their powerful and enigmatic boss, Susan (Tara Franklin). From the beginning, Patty senses something is a little off. Perhaps it's that the secretaries never eat solid food, only strawberry SlimFasts. Or the chastity pledge they all must sign. Or maybe it's the strange giggle and click language they speak to one another. Or it could be the strange way that a lumberjack dies a gruesome death every twenty-eight days or so. Patty's desire to get to the bottom of the mysteries she sees around her is blunted somewhat by her relationship with Buzz (Brian Frank), a shy lumberjack who catches Patty's eye. But eventually, the band's murderous designs are exposed, and Buzz winds up in the cross-hairs.

The ending of the play is pretty much a foregone conclusion, but the twists and turns along the way - lesbian Dawn's predatory stalking of Patty, Peaches' over-the-top binging, Ashley's dethronement from her long held "Secretary of the Month" position, and ice queen Susan's tampon inspection (don't ask, it simply has to be seen to be believed) - make for a wild, campy, and howlingly funny trip.

The acting in The Secretaries is outstanding, with each actor milking out as much humor as possible from the role, and leaving each character grounded in reality, even as the situations get wilder and wilder. Production values are strong as well, particularly J.J. Bernard and Francois Portier's flexible set and Gracie Law's lighting. Joe Jung's strong directing help make this an excellent production.

For a fun, campy, and laugh-out-loud good time, I heartily recommend The Secretaries.

The Secretaries
By The Five Lesbian Brothers (Maureen Angelos, Babs Davy, Dominique Dibbell, Peg Healey, and Lisa Kron)
Directed by Joe Jung
Stage Manager: Jacob Seelbach
Scenic Artistry: J.J. Bernard and Francois Portier
Costume Design: Janaske von Sunrike
Sound Design: Joe Jung
Lighting Design: Gracie Law
Publicity: Seth Grugle

Featuring: Karis Danish (Dawn Midnight), Laura Dillman (Peaches Martin), Brian Frank (Buzz Benikee), Tara Franklin (Susan Curtis), Jessi Blue Gormezano (Patty Johnson), Andrew McLeod (Sandy/Mr. Kembunkscher), Jenny Schutzman (Ashley Elizabeth Fratangello)

78th Street Theatre Lab
236 W. 78th Street

Visit Project: Theater for information.

Closed June 6th

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