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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Theater

Comedy misses mark, feels inappropriately insulting


“Girls Only ­— The Secret Comedy of Women,” which only stars a two-women cast began running in early September and will end in mid-October at the Main Street Theater in Chelsea Market. | Courtesy of RicOrnel Productions

“Girls Only ­— The Secret Comedy of Women,” which only stars a two-women cast began running in early September and will end in mid-October at the Main Street Theater in Chelsea Market. | Courtesy of RicOrnel Productions

Media directed toward women often has a bad reputation. Women’s comedies always seem badly written and tired with plots about screaming, middle-aged women who obsess over clothes and men.

Lately, Hollywood and other media have been trying their best to shake this stereotype with movies such as “Bridesmaids” and proving very successful — both critically and commercially.

However, instead of trying to defy the stereotypes, “Girl’s Only — The Secret Comedy of Women,” a sketch play created by Barbara Gehring and Linda Klein, embraces them in a play that is not only painfully unfunny, but is a downright bore to sit through.

Before the play even begins, the audience is hit over the head with two nameless characters played by Tracy Ahern and Keri Henson sitting in a bright, pink bedroom in their underwear singing along to “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” This sets the tone for the rest of the play, as the actresses bring in the audience to simplify the complicated female experience into bras, puberty and sanitary napkins.

The play uses skits, puppet shows, commercial and PSA clips, and audience participation to haphazardly jump from jokes about life as a young girl, to the history of women, to jokes about life as an adult woman.

The only real laughs come from the improvisation, as Ahern and Henson show that they can work with the audience and bounce off of them organically.

However, this was ruined as they sometimes overstepped their boundaries. In one skit they took two purses from the audience members and dug through them, flashing the contents to the audience. Henson even took out a phone and put it down her shirt.

The cherry on top of the cringe-comedy sundae proved to be one skit consisting of a “crafts corner,” where the actresses dressed as old women and joked about crafts that could be done using sanitary napkins.

Tampon angels were flung onto the crowd and Ahern awkwardly tried to skate on the floor with pads stuck to her shoes, as all semblances of dignity or subtlety were downright obliterated.

At its heart, the play comes off more as created by a 30-year-old man whose only interaction with women is from ‘80s chick-flicks, rather than two real women. The entire play is one big inside joke, which proves rather awkward for the people who aren’t in on it.

Ahern and Henson segmented jokes about memory boxes, Girl Scouts and locked diaries with a wink and a “Right, ladies?” as if these are experiences shared by all women.

As a result, a play that should be catered toward all women becomes a play catered toward straight, white, middle-class and middle-aged women. And even then, many of the jokes fall flat anyway due to awkward delivery and poor acting.

At its best, the play does service its very specific audience. At its worse, the play downright demeans and insults women, with stereotypes and tired jokes that prove women’s comedy still has a long way to go.

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