- Minimal yet effective design did just enough to create the talk-show world
- Minora’s daring, cheeky performance made her Becky equally rich and revolting
- The material might be upsetting for some, but if you can get into the room, nothing says community like collective laughter followed by a knowing groan.
- Brutal satire covered in a perfect sheen of lipgloss.
In my pockets
I’m a white cis woman, so I expected that this piece was about to come for me. I was super excited about it, but in that stomach-churning “let’s get uncomfortable/weird” way.
Lights: The plot in the Skinner Studio at Plays and Players is pretty basic, so this is mostly a “lights up/lights down” situation.
Sound: Adriano Shaplin designed an appropriately cringe-worthy soundtrack, using popular music at just the right moments to make me squirm in my seat. One particularly pleasurable moment during the show was a callout of 90s Gwen Stefani for cultural appropriation, which then led me to remember that “I’m Just a Girl” was included in the pre-show incidental music.
Costumes: Minora’s Becky costume is perfectly evocative and self-aware enough to keep it from being frustratingly on the nose. Her white dress/cape combo, flawless jewelry, neatly coiffed blonde wig, and alarmingly perfect manicure are the right ingredients for a solid lampooning. And yeah, there are pussy hats.
Set: this show has been on the move, so I imagine the set needed to be pretty spare and utilitarian. But there is just enough gauzy fabric and subtle touches (like a present yet unobtrusive B for “Becky” that rests on the floor) to create a white lady’s dream talk-show set. It’s not always easy to transform the Skinner, but I was given just enough. It helps that the way the risers are constructed is reminiscent of the kind of seating you might see on a morning talk show when the camera pans to the smiling, clapping viewers.
Minora is dynamic and I want to commend her on how well she listens to an audience and how quickly she can adapt and shift within her own material. Her swift comedic timing is undeniable (even when you want to strangle Becky with the good wig).
Though clear that Lee is the master of her own concept and craft, Alice Yorke’s direction helped to further refine the edges of an already sharp play (aside from a clunky initial transition between the prologue and main act that accommodates a costume change). White Feminist reflects a solid partnership between Minora and Yorke.
Minora is an economical writer, and she plays with comedic length in the fun and slightly dangerous way that the best comics do. She had a lot of material to work with, but the pace clips along beautifully, keeping things from feeling overfull or under-explored. Though the message stays pretty consistent throughout, there were just enough surprises to keep me from being certain that I had it all figured out. I question the incorporation of food into this piece — Becky takes bites of cookies and cupcakes a couple of times, leading to brief (and of course, humorous) bouts of almost vomiting in front of the audience. I couldn’t quite make out the significance of the moments, other than perhaps a metaphor for choking on your own bullshit. I’m not convinced it enhanced the piece. But this is just being picky in the face of an otherwise complex and achingly funny show that finishes with a satisfying kick in the stomach.
I’ve been turning it around in my brain since I saw the show, and I honestly can’t tell for whom it is intended. The easy answer is that White Feminist is meant for the well-meaning but deluded white liberals who do more harm than good in their activism and, potentially, any white conservative who accidentally stumbles into the theatre and has no clue what they’re in for. But sitting in my seat, I considered myself for a moment: a white woman whose blend of gendered socialization and political values has bred me to feel nothing but constant guilt. I knew this about myself before the show began. And looking around the audience, I wonder how many other people identified this way. Did I learn something new about the potential and realized horrors of white women who unknowingly step on the heads of the oppressed to get power? Not really, because I wasn’t totally oblivious before seeing White Feminist. So, in a room of white people who might be aware of their flaws, does a play that rebukes the power-holders have much traction? The answer is of course it does, because we’re still working to do right by those we have harmed, and we sure as hell haven’t figured it all out. This show does have so much to teach someone who desperately needs the education, but it also serves as a much-needed reminder of how much work still must be done, even if you think you know what’s up.