Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Review: What Happens in the Bathroom

The struggle is real. It seems as time and trends evolve, there are will always be some social hurdle to leap over. In Open Booth's immersive SHE written by Renee Roden, the private moments of young girls are brought to light as you watch the internal and external struggles.
SHE is an ambitious site-specific drama staged in a high school girls' restroom. Avoiding spoilers, SHE follows a girl, her friend, and her twin as they tackle adolescence in a striking fashion. SHE is a visceral experience to say the least. With such an intimate setting in tight quarters, SHE not only offers a strong story but places you into this tale that we often try to avoid. Without giving too much away, SHE tells the story of a teenage girl and the struggles of growing up in an image-obsessed society. The characters that Roden has devised are accessible. They are either someone you know well or perhaps even yourself. And in this setting, it makes the story reverberate. Clocking in at a mere sixty minutes, there is room to expand the characters and allow stronger arcs. That is if you take it out of the site specific bathroom. As it stands now, in bathroom, SHE gives you just enough to feel unclean.
photo by Joey Doyle
To bring out the feeling of this piece, the atmosphere needed to be perfect. You needed to feel as if there is no escape from this world. And this restroom did the trick. It was tight. It was cramped. But you felt like a fly on the wall. Staging will always cause site line issues within the tight space, but what director Joey Doyle did was nothing short of spectacular. Though where you were seated in the bathroom could truly alter the experience, being able to have multiple perspectives was key. Sure, there were some backs at times, but being able to see the trio of actresses' faces through the mirror was a marvelous touch. Roden has a very colloquial way to her dialogue. Doyle highlighted this allowing the conversations these teenage girls were having to appear natural. From the fast-talk to the exaggeration, it was purely authentic.
If you did not believe them, the piece would not work. And thankfully SHE featured a tremendous trio. As the focal girl, Katherine Dudas brought a well-balanced performance. From putting on a brave face to breaking down in solitude, Dudas hit her beats. Emily Dauer as Ryan was a wonderful sidekick. Constantly whining and complaining, Dauer encompassed everything into that girl you totally know and probably dislike. Bringing a resounding firmness to the piece, Meaghan Adawe McLeod balanced out Dudas. They had a natural chemistry with one another yet they couldn’t be more different.
There are many ways to approach a site-specific piece. You can certainly take the easy route and simply stage the piece. Or you can do what Open Booth did and bring it to life. Ambiance is everything and what Joey Doyle and technical director John Yost provided brought SHE to the next level. SHE could have easily been just another play set in an exotic location but the use of lights and sound created something unique. Just the mechanics of making the production happen are magical. It proves that with the right mindset, a production can happen anywhere.
Open Booth and Renee Roden offer a strong story through their powerful staging. It brings awareness to a continued issue. But is it enough? If anything, SHE will give you will to maybe help someone who cannot help themselves.