Freshwater Theatre Company has remounted its latest female artist showcase, Dirty Girls Come Clean, with a special purpose. Proceeds are going to support the local chapter of Dress For Success, “a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the economic independence of disadvantaged women in the Twin Cities by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.”
So, honestly, Freshwater could have put up anything on stage and have all kinds of built-in good karma flowing already. But Dirty Girls Come Clean: The Return isn’t just anything. Dirty Girls Come Clean is one of the better examples of a showcase done right that I’ve seen in a while. It’s comprises a widely varied set of material that still holds together remarkably well as a whole. Writing, acting, directing—it’s all strong, solid work pretty much from start to finish, full of laughter and also food for thought (some of the food literal). Dirty Girls Come Clean was my first experience attending a Freshwater Theatre show, but with work this strong on display, I have a feeling it’s just the first visit of many to come for me.
“The cats used my bedroom like a singles bar.”
First of all, where has Mame Pelletier been hiding until now? I saw her onstage for the first time last year in Theatre Unbound’s 24 hour play festival and she blew the roof off the place, she was so hilarious. Someone randomly walked up to me this year at the 24 hour event and asked specifically about her, if she was back again (she was)—that’s how indelible an impression she made, and not just on me. (Okay, quick Internet search: until a couple of years ago she was in Portland, Oregon, so I feel less bad about not knowing her sooner.) This all goes by way of saying that Mame was performing in Dirty Girls as well.
Allison Witham wrote a most amusing short called Elegant Carnage, which Freshwater Co-Artistic Director Ruth Virkus directed, and Mame performed. A perfectly pressed and coiffed 1950s-style housewife is so good at her daily routine of keeping the house neat and tidy that she feels compelled to offer herself more of a challenge. She sets up a series of rapidly escalating and absurd situations in which the house is trashed and in which she provides herself less and less time to get the whole place returned to order before the husband gets home. The woman is a truly delightful lunatic. And I see that Mame is a company member with Freshwater, participating in several of their productions already. Yet another reason to return to Freshwater. If Mame’s around, entertainment is assured.
“If you love me you are a sinner, and you need to be punished.”
I could go on and on about any number of the performers involved here. It was an eclectic and multi-talented bunch of ladies all bringing their A-game for the short time they had on stage. The word exhilarating just popped into my head, and that’s a mighty apt description for my experience as an audience member.
“It has come to our attention that the chipmunk in your touring play moonlights as a porn star.”
Courtney McLean brought her signature naughty humor in both story and song (“Talkin’ Straight” and “I Would Go Gay For You”), recounting her first (and thus far only) lesbian experience. Amy Salloway channeled the obscene spirit of Dr. Seuss in an extended poetic chat with a talking vibrator while touring the many sexual options available to a gal in Oh, The F**king You’ll Do! (Amy appeared in both halves of the evening, the other time regaling us with the tale of her quest to land the role of a plus-sized hooker in Wanna Be Wanda.)
“I know she’s walking really fast but it looks like she’s gliding.”
The audience also got everything from lap dancing to interpretive dance. Former exotic dancer Kjersti Bohrer introduced us not only to Million Dollar Pete but to the ups and downs of the life she used to lead (and is glad to have in her past). Were I a straight man, I believe Bohrer’s provocative (and brief) costume and limber, hypnotic dance moves would have been a big, added bonus for the evening. As it was, I couldn’t help but appreciate the view (and from a confirmed gay man, that’s saying something). The fact that her script and acting, directed by Cynthia Uhrich, also made for compelling drama made me feel a little less guilty for staring.
“Everything is different. The earth has stopped breathing.”
The evening’s other impressive dancer (also writer and choreographer) was Hannah Holman, a “girl” actually covered in dirt as she performed Of The Earth, which tweaks the story of the Garden of Eden from Eve’s perspective. Eve is at one with her brand new world, and then she eats that apple. Knowledge is gained, but some instinct is lost—can the connection to nature be found again?
“I have promised him a peek under my bathing suit, but he has to go first.”
In addition to directing someone else’s script, Cynthia Uhrich provided one of her own, Last of August—directed by Claire Aviitabile and performed by Amanda Kay Thomm. Thomm portrays a young girl just beginning to see and understand the differences between boys’ and girls’ bodies, and the undercurrent of sexuality with which adults deal every day. In Sky Fleeting, another short directed by Virkus, written and performed by company member J. Merrill Motz alongside fellow cast & company member Katie Starks, for a change it’s the man in the couple of who wants to talk about emotions while the woman just wants to get down to the sex, and is willing to make death threats to keep things on track.
“I’m putting a few more hours of life into you.”
Also in the mix was a fascinating bit of character improv, Marjorie Feeds Us All—written and performed by Maggie Sotas, directed by Scot Moore. Sotas is channeling her grandmother in Marjorie, and she has a fair amount of set material she performs. But then she also engages a handful of audience members in sampling her two plates of comfort food. She shares the various ingredients, and navigates the tricky territory of having vegetarians and vegans in the audience. Sotas gets the details of Marjorie just right, right down to the handkerchief tucked into the sleeve of her sweater. Marjorie also slowly reveals how age takes its toll on her mind, but never her spirit (or mischievous sense of humor).
“When he calls me sweetheart, I look around the room like he must be talking to someone else.”
Company member Ariel Leaf ended the evening flanked by all the women and their characters who had come before, performing postergirl—a short, searing confessional about her sexual and romantic misadventures and how they informed the proud, defiant woman she is today. The swiftness with which Leaf unfolded this litany of experience made it twice as powerful, and a perfect end to a great evening of theater.
This production can be seen using discount vouchers from the Daily Planet’s Theater All Year program—six vouchers for just $99.
(The Theater All Year program is run independently of the Daily Planet’s editorial coverage, and participation in the program does not affect the likelihood or content of any Daily Planet previews or reviews.)