Erin Shea Brady is a contributing writer and critic at PerformInk and Newcity Stage. Directing credits include: Everybody (Brown Paper Box Co.) and Cabaret, Annapurna (staged reading) and The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (No Stakes Theater Project). Erin has assistant directed and dramaturged productions at the Goodman, Jackalope, TimeLine, A Red Orchid, Northlight, and Remy Bumppo. Erin is a graduate of the directing program at Columbia College Chicago, the internship program at Steppenwolf, Jackalope's inaugural Playwright's Lab, and participated in the Goodman's Criticism in a Changing America bootcamp. Erin is a company member with Brown Paper Box Co. and is currently pursuing her MSW at Loyola.
Pictured: Carissa Barreca, Alex Bellisle, Katie Caussin, Maria Randazzo, Alexis J. Roston. Photo by Todd Rosenberg Photography.
By Erin Shea Brady
Created and performed entirely by women, and subtitled “Girlfriend’s Guide to Sisters Doing it for Themselves,” SHE THE PEOPLE makes a big promise in a world of women who are hungry for laughs and representation. The comedy community, in particular, has come under fire for perpetuating a culture of sexism that often excludes and undermines women’s voices. Against the backdrop of #TimesUp and #MeToo, SHE THE PEOPLE fully delivers, going above and beyond the headlines and speaking directly to the heart of the movement.
Under the direction of Carly Heffernan, the comedy of each of the six performers (Alex Bellisle, Carisa Barreca, Katie Caussin, Maria Randazzo, Alexis J. Roston, and Kimberly Michelle Vaughn) ranges broadly, and they compliment each other extremely well. They are all formidable, all standouts, all equally and individually funny. From Katie Caussin’s irreverent film director to Alexis J. Roston’s lament about grandkids, they nail sketch after sketch. While definitely, overtly and wonderfully geared towards femme audiences (I am unquestionably their target audience and I was here for it), you do not have to be a woman to enjoy this show. It isn’t just funny for those of us who are in on the joke. It is funny as hell, across the board. The tone is topical, sharp and relentlessly feminist and there is also just some great dumb stuff, proving that these writers and performers are versatile and skilled beyond their deeply satisfying take-down of the patriarchy.
They tackle the big stuff (rape culture, white privilege, abortion, congressmen who can’t bear to discuss the female anatomy) with humor and care, while also proving that women can have a sense of humor about ourselves. When we are in on the jokes and writing the jokes, we can laugh about manic pixie dream girls and Spanx because there is a baseline of awareness and respect. We can joke about harassment and discrimination with the goal of exposing this culture, rather than exploiting it.
This is more than just a showcase for women. It’s the future of comedy, and these six women slay, dragging everything from Lena Dunham to white feminism to brunch. Given the criticism and the polarization of issues like the Aziz Ansari exposé, pink pussy hats, and white feminism in general, what seems like an easy task (making work by women, about women, for women) still has the power to isolate communities that face deeper marginalization. While I wished that SHE THE PEOPLE had addressed and included transwomen, what they did address had me cringing for all the right reasons.
Will this sway the Republicans and change the world? Not immediately. But it isn’t meant to. SHE THE PEOPLE is a much-needed catharsis, a celebration of emerging (and established) women in comedy, and a really awesome night out. You will leave the theater with Alanis Morissette ringing in your ears and a craving for cake. And with the continued support and championing of these fierce femme voices, change is inevitable.
SHE THE PEOPLE runs through April 1st. For more information visit secondcity.com.