Guys, you can relax. SHE THE PEOPLE, Second City’s all-female revue, won’t make you feel bad about your Y chromosome. Billed as a “girlfriend’s guide to sisters doing it for themselves,” SHE THE PEOPLE offers an antidote to gender-based anxiety.
Women may have entered Second City’s UP Comedy Club with unequal pay and sexual harassment on their minds. Men may have braced themselves for a night of reckoning. But once lights came up on the five-member cast, sisters (mostly young) and brothers (outnumbered but not overwhelmed) could revel in fun. Carisa Barreca, Alex Bellisle, Katie Caussin, Maria Randazzo, Alexis J. Roston and Kimberly Michelle Vaugh present the human condition through a female lens.
SHE THE PEOPLE explores absurdities and hypocrisies
SHE THE PEOPLE doesn’t dodge the reality of male-female power imbalances. It just explores female behavior with the confidence to put its absurdities and hypocrisies on full display. If women ran the world, would that mean the end of mindless competition? Not according to this revue.
Men may one-up each other through stories of their bench-pressing prowess or pick-up horsepower. Women, meanwhile, vie for status with childbirth experiences. When a newcomer enters a mothers and infants class, the others describe their tortuous labors. The newbie is quickly shamed after responding that an epidural relieved her suffering. “I gave birth in the woods,” declares one woman. “A bear was my midwife!”
In “Turning into Your Mother” a lesbian couple discovers a universal tendency. As the mother of one woman talks, the other woman picks up signals that her partner will become a Zumba class taking, hotel toiletry hoarding, bad dyed hair version of the mother. Gay or straight, male or female, spouses beware: as they age, people acquire the habits of their parents.
Calorie counting at Second City
Dieting gets plenty of airtime. How does one woman control her calories? “Weight Watchers and self-hatred.” Every bite has consequences. At a party with an appealing chocolate cake, the birthday girl insists on a microscopic sliver. A friend tastes a single crumb while another just smells the chocolate.
Same pattern for a group of Kardashian-sounding women in a restaurant. One asks for a salad but hold the chicken, the next asks to hold the dressing, the next to hold the lettuce, the next to hold the fork. About the only thing they’ll all order without deliberation is another round of mimosas.
SHE THE PEOPLE’s generous spirit
Through its self-examining humor, SHE THE PEOPLE moves beyond victimhood. Thus, when the show makes a significant point about gender discrimination, the audience seems very ready to listen.
The second half includes a sketch in which a little girl tells her female schoolteacher that a boy has pushed her on the playground. The teacher’s unwillingness to believe the girl’s claims, even after seeing her scraped arm, is puzzling at first. Then it becomes clear that it’s a commentary on discrediting victims’ reports of sexual abuse. In a quest to preserve their own positions, women will sometimes reinforce a system that denies other women’s truth.
That’s a message worth hearing. If you care about equal justice but are weary of the current public discourse, SHE THE PEOPLE will let you reflect and refuel.
Now through April 1
Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 PM
Sundays at 7 PM
Second City UP Comedy Club
230 W North Ave.
About the Author
Susan Lieberman is a playwright, journalist, teacher and script consultant who commits most of her waking hours to Chicago theatre. She is currently working on a commission for BBC Radio.