Four Fables

Women’s Work, presented by Dramatic Women. At Center Stage Theater, Saturday, February 17. Shows through February 24.

Reviewed by Felicia M. Tomasko

Do bears enjoy a swig of Prosecco along with their berries? Will they carve a woman’s breasts into a tree and hanker for a hunkering down with a hibernating cutie? Such questions pepper Ellen K. Anderson’s delightful “Sleeping with Squirrels,” the play that caps off an evening of Women’s Work. The four female playwrights featured in this production explore themes of sexuality, relationships, civil rights, truth, and interconnectedness in settings varying from a radio station to a remote forest.

Sojourner Kincaid Rolle’s “The Receptionist” provides a glimpse into the Civil Rights movement, and the riots after Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’ s death, from the vantage point of two women, one an African-American receptionist and one a deejay, at a D.C. radio station. Through the switchboard and the station’s special guests, we view conflict, hope for resolution, and pride. While the women, Adaeze Nzegwu Uyanwah and Linda McCall, played strong roles, the two men visiting the station, played by Michael Johnson and Matthew “Catfish” Jean, were scene-stealers.

Emma-Jane Huerta’s “Five Finger Discount” featured witty dialogue and a snappy pace, although at times the chemistry between the mother-and-daughter pair (portrayed by Leslie AnnRenee and Lauren Parsons, respectively) seemed forced. Michaun Barner’s African-American policewoman overturned stereotypes with her skillful, understated playing of the role, leaving us with a conclusion both poignant and troubling.

Novelist and poet Shelia Fugard’s adaptation of her prose work for the stage, “The San Woman,” is both allegorical and literal in its exploration of past, present, and future, and race and class in South Africa. Diva Johnson and Dana Halverson played off each other well, and dancers Leigh Dunham and Tariel Naxon were perfect shadows.

According to “Sleeping with Squirrels,” bears can act in unexpected ways, as can hibernating women and besotted businessmen. Starr Kirkland is a wry narrator/soon-to-be-mother bear and Qualiema Va’Shon Green, Paul McCormick, and Max Smith traipse through the woods looking for berries and love. Although Anderson’s tale of unusual three-way love triangles requires some serious suspension of disbelief, it works, as do all four plays in this showcase of dramatic women’s work.

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