Here’s a slick, snappy, lively show that’s timely, relevant and fun. It’s She Like Girls, and it’s got dance and music and diversity and authenticity. The best thing about this show is how the theatrical elements intersect for an amazing production. The worst thing about the show is that it’s not around long enough for everybody who should see it to have the opportunity. Seriously, unless the F-word and the N-word are dealbreakers for you, stop reading this review, skip to the end links and get tickets now.
Playwright Chisa Hutchinson’s East Coast urban background and excellent ear produce realistic dialogue, offering a snapshot of East Coast urban high school culture and language. Those whose ears might be offended (by the word, or variations on, “fuck,” or the “N” word, with or without an R), please understand it’s nothing personal, or shock-tastic. It’s real, and when it’s uncomfortable is when it’s most authentic. It’s marked “adult content,” with “mature situations and language,” so don’t arrive expecting sanitized verbiage. You’ve been warned. Hutchinson packs a lot of “big” topics into this show, seamlessly and naturally. She also captures both the brutality and tenderness displayed so rampantly by high school students to one another, and the dizzying carousel of expectations, values, and norms imposed by adults in their world.
Director Eve Muson, UMBC Assistant Professor of Theatre, creates atmosphere, movement, tension and a lot of teenage angst. The show is so fast-paced, I didn’t even want an intermission. (Props to House Management/Ushers encouraging us to use the restrooms before the show. It was a considerate thing to do.) Her Director’s Notes in the program are more than informative, they’re Important, yes, with a capital I. Her cast’s ensemble work in this production is remarkable and terrific.
About the cast: it’s inclusive and diverse, and jam-packed with talent. The actors are versatile, speedy and fearless. It’s my impression that the thing actors fear most is facing strangers off-stage and without a cover character, but close behind that has got to be undressing in front of an audience that includes somebody’s Grandmom, perhaps your own. These actors are “all in.” Majenta Thomas as Kia spotlights the awkwardness and uncertainty of a teen coming to terms with herself, floundering around into waters which can literally be life and death. In the play’s main adult roles, Connor Kertiss delivers an applause-worthy teacher-rant monologue as Mr. Keys, and Ronnita Freeman nails her “Mom” energy. As Marisol, Maria Marsalis brings depth and vulnerability to an essentially “cool kid” character, while Laura Glascock disappears into each of her supporting characters. Lloyd Epke as Andre Dupree deftly handles the difficult task of making an antagonistic character relatable, even lovable, despite the desperately douche-baggy things he does and says.
Choreographer Chelsea Pace hits us with some smooth moves, well within the capabilities of the young cast. Everybody looks comfortable and graceful, even during the opening sequence when we’re not yet sure what’s happening or what it means. Major props to Costume Designer Eric Abele’s parade of wardrobes, which includes nods to high school garb across a couple of decades.
Scenic Designer Nate Sinnott crafts a mid-room playing area (crossing the stage to reach seating feels disrespectful, but there’s no other option) of neutrals and basics, which yield an adaptable Lego-like collection of modular, semi-representational shapes. The flat surfaces and neutral colors of Sinnott’s set are an excellent canvas for some dazzling effects and projections by Lighting Designer Adam Mendelson. The lightweight mobile units are ingenious and make for exceedingly fast scene changes. Performing also as run crew, actors move boxes from here to there swiftly and quietly, accompanied by what I assume is contemporary music. That is to say, I didn’t recognize any of it. That is to say, I’m old, and I know it.
If you’re a young person of color in the LBGTQ+ community, you’ll want to see She Like Girls. It’s about you, and that’s refreshing. If you’re anyone else, I’m guessing you’ll like the show. It’s a romantic-comedy-coming out/coming of age story, and that’s a great sentence to be able to write. It’s even better on stage.
Running Time: 90 minutes. She Like Girls is performed without an intermission; there is no late seating.
She Like Girls runs through October 28, 2018, in the Black Box theatre at University of Maryland Baltimore County, 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, MD. Tickets are available at the box office an hour before the show, or online. A post-performance panel discussion will follow the 2 p.m. performance on Sunday, October 28th.