Saturday, August 1, 2015

Review: War of the Sexes

The battle of the sexes is an age-old subject that has pitted men versus women to determine the dominant gender. In Sander Gusinow's The Fairer Sex, the future finds that the dominance has fallen to the women and the men are fighting back to regain control.
The Fairer Sex is a sharp dark comedy that tackles an abundance of gender-related themes in a captive manner. Looking through a comedic lens, Gusinow writes a distant future where a band of sisters destroy the men who have done them wrong since the dawn of time. When one of the captives is revealed to be the offspring of the men’s rebel leader, things take a wild turn. Through sex, power, and much absurdity, The Fairer Sex packs a wild punch. Gusinow's script has great potential. There is something impressive within, but there are a few hiccups preventing it from fully succeeding, though some may be blamed on weak direction. First and foremost, the opening scene is drawn out and lacks the instant attraction. Currently, the second scene establishes the hilarious tone of the play. As we latter learn, the first scene is the present and until the final scene, all others are in the flashback. Gusinow and director Samantha Lee Manas don't establish a flashback or memory device moving forward causing a missed opportunity to bring the audience in. The information we learn in the first scene is eventually shown to us so the question begs, how important is this scene? While it may establish Kristen as a focal player, this piece is really dependent on the trio of Kristen, Lena, and Elam. Secondly, this piece thrives on timing and many of the scenes go on a bit too long. With some streamlining, the comedy and drama will balance each other properly.
Though it may have been Kriten's ultimate journey, it was Elam and Lena who carried the show. Geek charming Billy Giacci as Elam was the strongest player of the bunch. There's no doubt that Giacci could manipulate and win over anyone in his situation. Giacci as great comedic chops and easily played into Gusinow's style. As the girly girl Lena, Erica Becker was everything that the character needed to be. She highlighted the girly girl stereotypes with her insta-jealousy, materialistic demands, and gossipy nature. As the exact opposite, Josephine Wheelwright as Kriten was rough and tough though didn't quite have the GI Jane command. Wheelwright may be the hardest character to play, unfortunately Wheelwright didn't quite fit. Another ill fit was Michelle Liu Coughlin as the head operation Gwen. The scare tactics Coughlin brought as the head of the mission weren't that, well, scary.
There is a great prospect of success in this piece but the overlying vision seemed to hurt the flow of the piece. Samantha Lee Manas seemed to blend a flurry of styles that misguided the piece. The play was most successful when the situation was over-the-top and the comedy spoke for itself. But when the moments were more subdued, they felt out of place. Too many tonal shifts hurt momentum. Moments of drama in satire should feel earned, sadly they just weren’t cohesive. One of the biggest sellers of this play is the violence. It desperately needs to be big, bold, and beautiful. Budget can be an issue but the shock value brings great value. Poorly executed fights and gore do not have the same effect so there were some moments that did not resonate, feeling incredibly staged. As far as staging was concerned, Manas utilized the space well, though some sight-line issues occurred due to the placement of the desk. Even though Manas pulled two audience chairs for use, the scenic design was very simple and clean. The lighting by Paul Kennedy added some brilliant feeling to the piece. The interrogation room light seeped into the audience, something that actually worked well.
The Fairer Sex is a script that has a great depth of potential. With some finessing and a stronger vision, The Fairer Sex will have a lasting life.