The Take Away

  • Refreshingly funny script by MJ Kaufman that provokes important questions while avoiding resolution.

  • Strong performances by the ensemble in a number of different roles.

  • Effective design choices, if sometimes lacking in specificity

  • A cast of all female and non-binary performers raises questions about who is responsible for bringing problems of toxic masculinity to light.

 

In Our Pockets

 

Nan

I know several people in the show; I haven’t worked at InterAct but I’ve auditioned more than once, and I really was not a fan of Broken Stones this fall.

 

C

I also knew a few people involved in the show, both performers and members of the creative team. I’ve seen several shows at Interact over the years, some of which I’ve loved and others I’ve not been crazy about.

 

Design

Nan

I thought the set dressing was really lovely– between the plant and the student notices papering the door, there was a lot to add color to a show which didn’t really have or need any set pieces. The set itself was simple and totally did the job. I appreciated the sneaky upstage entryways which weren’t really “doors” in the room, but enabled them to enter and exit more than one way.

 

C

Agreed. I felt the same way about the small cabinets under the bookshelves that helped facilitate quick-changes. I also thought the set succeeded in creating a recognizable prestigious-college atmosphere. I especially loved the portrait of the college’s founder (an old white man, naturally) hovering above the action.

 

Nan

For sure. They didn’t need a lot of objects to build the atmosphere. The placement of the old white man in a major focal point was also really wise! The sound design was fun but kinda took me out of it– that mix tape style of riot grrl tracks? But on the other hand I also would rather have that than orchestral, atmospheric music.

 

C

Yeah, I hear that. I think that the music choices grew on me as the show went on–I appreciated that they accompanied these kind of fun and really well-choreographed transitions between scenes and characters. But it took some getting used to.

I also really liked the overall look of the transitions, especially Maria Shaplin’s lights. They helped kind of seal in each vignette and then push us into the next.

 

Nan

The transitions were really elegantly done. I appreciated that they tried to make something of them rather than just trying to move through them as fast as possible. They made a nice button between scenes.

 

C

Totally. The costumes were also all designed in a way that kept those moments really tight. I especially liked Emily Lynn’s skirt that they could kind of swirl off in their transition to their male character.

 

Nan

I appreciated that the costumes had a really difficult job in making each character totally distinct and also being easy to get off and on quickly, but there were a few that didn’t quite work for me, and Emily’s “Diana” role was one of them. Maybe it was mostly because they seemed so uncomfortable? But the hair stitched into the hat looked super unnatural as well. There also wasn’t quite enough differentiation between Lexie Braverman’s costumes for me.

 

C

I think that there’s a challenge in this show of trying to create a lot of distinct characters through costuming using only a handful of actors, and some were certainly more successful than others. I really likes the costuming for all the adult characters–i thought they felt more complete and specific.

Direction

Nan

I think it was pretty crucial they chose a nonwhite man to direct, though why they couldn’t find a woman or NB person of color I am not sure. Is there a less bitter way to say that?

 

C

I appreciate that there were a lot of female and non-binary voices on the creative team, but I hear you.

I think that this script is challenging in the way it tackles painful topics with subversive humor and satire.

I thought Evren Odcikin managed to navigate the tone of the piece pretty successfully throughout. As we were talking about with the musical scene transitions, I found that it took me a little while to settle in as an audience member (What am I laughing at? Should I laugh at this?). But I think that those bits of discomfort were intentional.

 

Nan

I really appreciated Odcikin’s touch as a director– also having read an earlier draft of the play, I definitely got the feeling that he’s a really solid director for new work, in addition to being nonwhite and really bringing that to the table in a play about a super white institution and how minority populations navigate it. I appreciated that the script was really centered in this production, with the words able to speak for themselves and not too much design or other choices smashed on top.

 

C

Agreed. And again, those transitions! (Can you tell I’m obsessed with transitions?) They worked so well as a way of laying bare the transformation of the actors from one character to another, so kind of winking at this device in a meta way, without being boring or overwrought or slowing the show down!

 

Nan

Yes! Such a smart choice. Though of course the night we saw it there was one rogue audience member who kept clapping through the transitions?? Like it was a musical???

 

C

Oh my god

Yes.

WHY?

 

Nan

Humans. Honestly.

 

Performances

 

C
Everyone here had a marathon of a show, with at least two roles per actor.


Nan
Absolutely! There was some really elegant work for sure. And a script that needs everyone’s ensemble work and sharing to be really solid, which they absolutely rose to. I was pretty distracted by the LOW men’s voices for a good chunk of the show.


C
Yeah, I hear that. It was something that struck me at first but I kind of settled into. What I appreciated in the ensemble’s male characters was that they sort of went hard on stereotypically “male” physicality at first (so much manspreading) But as the show went on their characters were fleshed out and started to feel more real.

I was really struck by Lexie Braverman’s performances as Jordan and Jones–both of those characters were different examples of men who really want to be “good” but have just huge fucking blind spots about their privilege–I thought she nailed the psychology there.


Nan
Yeah, it did feel like a  deliberate progression, for sure. I think it was also meant to be really striking in the beginning and wear off, which mostly worked, for me, but raised interesting questions about why it’s assumed that we need to hear this kind of commentary from specifically lighthearted, non cis male voices for it to land? 

I really enjoyed Braverman’s performance. The scene in which she really loses her temper as Jordan and breaks down to show his true colors was really skillfully played.
I also really loved Bi Jean Ngo as Pete. The extreme masculinity was surprisingly natural coming from her, and her final Pete scene was really lovely.


C
Me too! I also thought that Maggie Johnson brought a really powerful vulnerability as Leslie and a lot of nuance as Will–their portrayal of that character really put me on edge, somehow.


Nan
Yes! Johnson’s work was really nuanced in a play where the temptation to play extremes as far as possible was very high. I did want a little more out of the character to round out their journey towards the end though.

 

The Script

 

C

I have been thinking a lot about the end of the show since we saw it on Saturday.  Overall, the play felt a little unresolved. I wanted more from Maggie’s character Leslie as the action concluded.  But I wonder if that was intentional. Part of what this piece deals with well is the question of what justice or resolution in the wake of an assault looks like, and usually that question does not have a concrete answer. So maybe the play’s structure was meant to reflect that.

 

Nan

In the earlier draft I read, the show actually finished with Danny being confronted and proceeding to sort of “own” his actions and apologize. On one hand I’m really glad they did not let him get off that easily this time, but I also felt very unresolved at the end, like it dropped off very suddenly.

Mostly what the ending left me thinking about this time is why non cis male voices are necessary to tell this story. I think the intention is to make the content more accessible through comedy, and using different voices to really put high focus on these cis male issues because they are so jarring coming from non cis male performers. But I also think that it sort of lets audiences off the hook. Why should it be on women and NB people to voice these problems? If it had ended with Danny apologizing, why do we have to be the ones to muppet the things we want to hear out of men? I found myself wondering how the show would have gone if it were a cis male cast.

 

C

Mmm. That’s a really interesting point. I am glad that the ending of the show felt unresolved if the alternative was a sort of redemption arc for Danny. I think for me the choice to cast non-cis male performers felt less like a heaping of the responsibility of education onto female and non-binary performers, and more like an opportunity to clown, mock, and take back the narrative from cis males. But I really see your point here.

 

Nan

It’s true, it was incredibly fun it was to watch the cast mock toxic masculinity.

 

C

And to mock the men who think they’ve freed themselves of it.

 

Nan

Absolutely. I also appreciated the amount of time devoted to watching all the characters self correct to be less problematic– adding they/them pronouns, moving from “girls” to “women” — it was mostly the guys but even on the women’s side, it was good to watch everyone trying to do better.

 

C

Totally. I think that part of what I found so endearing about the end of the play is the way that that Pete is trying so openly and sincerely to be better–and still fucking up all the time. There is an interesting dynamic at play in the piece where the men’s group becomes the kind of “safe space” where secrets and horrible behavior are kept hidden as long as a person claims they are learning from it. I think that the play is a compelling illustration of how those spaces can come to be havens for shitty behavior, and how real openness and accountability has to exist outside of sealed spaces like it.

 

Nan

Yes! I’ve been thinking and talking a lot lately about about what happens in the wake of assault, specifically after a call out or once the assault comes to light. By ending where it does, the play seems to try to completely center survivors’ experiences and what it means to stand up for them, but the most interesting part of the play for me was what happens inside the men’s group once Danny’s actions begin to come to light. How do we move forward? The production strongly chooses not to answer that question, but I’m glad it’s the final query they leave the audience with, and hopefully conversations were started after the lights went down.

 

C

It’s a question I’ve been sitting with for a few days now too.

 

Accountability

 

C

This production feels incredibly timely given the #MeToo movement, and I found it both provocative and in moments incredibly cathartic. It felt powerful to be able to laugh with folx about an issue that has gotten so much media attention lately that it’s become exhausting to talk about.

 

Nan

Oh my god yes.

 

C

And in that way, I think it has something to say to a lot of different types of people. I would hope that cis men would be unsettled and activated by it. And I hope that for everyone else, there is something in it that feels life-giving or resonant.

 

Nan

Absolutely. I’m really glad it is being produced.

 

 

 

 

 

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