Kick Ass Plays for Women is a collection of three emotionally-heavy one act shows about the horrors and tragedies of everyday life, presented with surprising humour and candour. Should You See It?
Contrary to the program listing, the evening started with “The Last Nickel” which depicts another sleepless night for Jamie who is pestered by her little sister, Jo, and a bunch of sardonic puppets. This was my favourite part of Kick Ass Plays for Women, largely because of the outstanding performance by Deirdre Brown as Jo. She is adorable and utterly loveable as a bubbly, pouty, all-around fun kid sister. Her performance was energetic, entertaining, and endearing, particularly when she began to show us the depth and compassion of the character.
The twist at the end of this play, when the sisterly relationship takes a shockingly dark turn, was powerful and brilliantly executed. But the play never lost its levity thanks to the inclusion of puppets: in particular, James Watson’s moose provided hilarious sportscast-style commentary that perfectly balanced the drama on stage.
After intermission, Kick Ass Plays for Women moved onto the award-winning Commencing, which centers on themes of sexual identity and the universality of women’s experiences. These topics are explored through conversations between Kelli, a straight-woman, and Arlen, her lesbian blind date setup. Both Jessie Benhaim (Kelli) and Kellie Fong Listkowski (Arlen) did a good job and were well-matched: neither stole the show and both played off each other nicely. But I didn’t find either character likeable: Kelli is unbearably rude and Arlen is painfully preachy.
This play didn’t have any narrative to follow and its tired feminist rants dragged on to the point of excruciating boredom. That said, judging from the laughs and applause, the audience seemed to enjoy this piece so perhaps I am simply the wrong demographic as these issues generally don’t interest me.
The evening ended with Friends of the Deceased, which had the most unique – and sometimes unbelievable – premise of the three shows. Vi, an angry widow, lingers at her husband’s gravesite hoping to meet one of his many young mistresses. Instead she finds Lanie, a petite, roughed-up looking Goth girl, who agrees to pretend to confess to sexual impropriety with the deceased in order to give Vi some closure. What Lanie ultimately confesses, however, is something much more sinister and heartbreaking.
Though short and absolutely tragic, this play ended the night on a strong note thanks to the fantastic performances by Mary Beth Pongrac (Vi) and especially Mel Grant (Lanie). Their acting was riveting, realistic, and raw in the best way.
The common thread among these shows is exposing the gritty vein of unbearable truths, from dealing with death to grappling with painful stereotypes. If this sounds like your thing, be sure to get tickets soon because Kick Ass Plays for Women has sold out its Valentine’s Day show and has limited seats available for the last show.