Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
The six women of the ensemble (one of whom, Maggie Wilder, is a Washington-based actor with a Helen Hayes Award), well guided by director Carly Heffernan, bring together a range of ethnicities and body types. Wardrobe stylist Jessica Sheehan has costumed them all in basic black (with the occasional zany flourish), from curvy Carisa Barreca's velvet mini-dress to sleek Atra Asdou's lace-topped jumpsuit and solidly built Alex Bellisle's serviceable blouse and pants. The physical production adds the color: Meghan Raham's set, with its random smears and splashes of paint; Brittany Shemuga's vivid lighting design; and Caite Hevner's jarring projections.
Too often, women still don't get the opportunity to tell their own stories. She the People frees the actors to take control of their situations with pointed humor. In the course of the performance, three women play a "Privilege" board game that gives the player designated as a wealthy white male benefits unavailable to her African-American and Latina counterparts; actresses in commercials portray the aesthetic side of toilet cleaners and feminine hygiene products; new mothers one-up each other over the birthing process; and women protest for their rights in 1918, 1968, and 2018, each lamenting that this chore still needs to be done.
Food is another issue, as in a scene in which the women fight over how small their slices of a co-worker's birthday cake should be, or the absurdist comparison of heating up and then discarding a frozen meal to abortion ("food begins at convection"). Also, a woman turns into her mother in real time; another dresses as a dinosaur to make a point at work; and one borrows Disney movie tropes to make a point about who's a princess and who's a queen.
The performance includes some audience participation; one of the opening-night volunteers picked up the rhythm so well, she could have been a ringer (but wasn't). She was one of three contestants on a game show called "You Oughta Know," highlighting the important things about daily life most people (not only women) should know and probably don't, compared with the ephemera they do know that doesn't matter.
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company