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
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
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.