If #metoo is the public shout, THE CONDITION OF FEMME is the private confession. Playwright/actress Lauren Marie Powell has taken interviews of sexual assault survivors and crafted them into monologues performed by a dozen actresses. In a venue well-matched to their intimacy – Pride Arts Center’s 50-seat Buena – the 90-minute show gets up close and personal with its audience.
THE CONDITION OF FEMME, directed by Amanda Jane Long, is a succession of stories told to a hotline worker who grows increasingly troubled. As Reagan (played by author Powell) notes “People love to ask ‘What do you do?’ People do not love to hear ‘I work for a rape crisis hotline.’”
Rape's ugly faces
Each story is both different and familiar: A virginal woman is raped on a trip to Costa Rica; a man masturbates against a woman in a packed subway car; an Evangelical wife rationalizes her husband’s domination; a girl finds her pants pulled down after a sleepover. Young in years but scarred by experiences they didn’t want, these women paint verbal portraits of rape’s ugly faces.
Interspersed between the monologues are video clips such as scenes from old movies in which men spank women – both parties fully clothed and enjoying the joke of disciplining females.
THE CONDITION OF FEMME uses the hotline worker’s emotional evolution as a framing device. For this viewer, it was not only unnecessary but also the only soft spot in an otherwise firm show. The entire cast is up to the job of making the individual stories so gripping, they create their own dramatic arc. We listen, we believe, we are unnerved.
Now through April 1
Thursdays – Saturdays at 8:00 PM
Sundays at 2:30 PM
Industry performances on Mondays at 8:00 PM
Lauren Marie Powell
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theater in Chicago
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.