Night Out Playwright's cozy Shaking the Dew works despite
some flaws. By Juliet Wittman
I found Shaking the Dew From the Lilies, now at the
Playwright Theatre, enjoyable in the same way I found nights with
girlfriends enjoyable in my twenties. Clad in pajamas or our underwear,
we'd dissect each other's relationships amid peals of satirical laughter at
the general obtuseness of men, assure each other that, no, we weren't too
fat, too skinny, too needy or too aggressive, compare breast sizes in the
mirror and drain a bottle or two of wine. Like those long-ago pajama
parties, with their sleepy pauses and endless repetition of specific themes, Shaking the
Dew has aimless or boring passages -- but it's all so cozy and amiable
that you don't really mind.
Five women are trapped in a shopping-mall bathroom. This is a
pretty contrived premise (one of the audience members commented afterward
that if it had been five men, the door would have been off its hinges in
fifteen minutes flat), but the script and the actresses have enough charm
to carry it off. Naturally, these five women are very different; their
paths would have been unlikely to cross under any other circumstances.
Cynthia is a repressed society girl who says she has never used a public
restroom before. Her introduction to slutty Tami occurs when the latter
sprays cheap hairspray around the entire mirror area and into her face.
There's some bickering about toilet paper, and then Susan and Aja enter.
They're a fairly typical girlfriend coupling: Aja is the sexy woman, Susan
the heavier, plainer one who basks in her friend's glamorous glow.
MaryLee Herrmann (from left), Laura Norman
(standing), Tara Casanova, Kate Avallone and Nina Grayson in Shaking the
Dew From the Lilies.
We will eventually discover the depths of envious rage beneath
Susan's pleasant exterior. The group is joined by thoughtful, quiet Nicole,
who turns out -- of course -- to be gay. There's something daring and
original about the play's funky setting and about the women's candor
regarding sex and other bodily functions, the references to smells, the way
the dialogue is periodically punctuated by the sounds of urination and
toilets flushing.But the early jokes
are pretty feeble (how funny is it, really, to see Cynthia walking around
with her skirt caught up in her panties to spasms of suppressed laughter
from the others?), and the dialogue is the cliché girly stuff you get on
television: talk of droopy breasts, annoying pantyhose, how it's possible
to be a feminist without being nasty, some nonsense about women's coffee-drinking
habits revealing their innermost feelings about sex, a reference to women
ripping off their bras.
Everyone in sequence -- well, almost everyone -- describes her
first sexual encounter. And, dear God, is there a woman anywhere on this
sweet earth -- or at least in fiction -- who isn't struggling to throw off
the influence of a selfish, manipulative, insensitive or perfectionist
Eventually, the women begin to reveal their secrets to each other.
When prim Cynthia breaks down, it's genuinely shocking, but this is
followed far too soon -- before we can fully digest its implications -- by
Tami's revelation of childhood trauma. Sequential confessions are a staple
of drama in our therapy-saturated culture, but they need to go somewhere.
Tearful monologues don't, in themselves, supply a satisfying sense of
climax and resolution. This weakness in the script is underlined by the
fact that director Cynthia Davies has so many of the revelations delivered
from the same spot on the stage.
But somehow the play does prevail. There's something disarming in
the way the women come to understand each other in their cluttered,
exhausted and enforced intimacy. MaryLee Herrmann's Tami grows on you as
the evening progresses, as does Nina Grayson's phlegmatic Nicole. Susan is
a difficult role, more a collection of disconnected comments than a human
being. Tara Casanova makes her simply matter-of-fact. Kate Avallone and
Laura Norman bring real depth to their characterizations, and that animates
the evening. Avallone's Aja is sexy, charming and vulnerable, and she
responds empathetically to the other characters. At one point, she holds
the audience mesmerized with a poem about orgasm that somehow manages to be
more lyrical than raunchy. As Cynthia, Laura Norman has a sly, understated
humor and a perfect sense of timing; she also makes you see the iron
control her character routinely imposes on herself. When Cynthia finally
breaks down -- with the help of a bottle of gin -- you can almost hear her
I think this play will get better and better the longer the five
actresses work together -- though I do wish playwright Paddy
Gillard-Bentley, who is in Denver for this production, would trim and focus the
script. Still, I found myself smiling as I left. Everyone needs a
girlfriend fix now and then.
Show de Toilette A new play takes a look at the loo. Kity Ironton and Jerri Theil
Thursday, May 12, 2005
CherryCreekShopping Center has pretty, posh
potties. The lovely latrines that were once cited by the Chicago Tribune
as the reason for the mall's successful bottom line are celebrated in Shaking
the Dew From the Lilies, opening tonight at at the Playwright Theatre, 2119 East 17th
Avenue. The Creek's commodes are the butt of
jokes in the new comedy, about five very different women who find
themselves locked in the ladies' lavatory overnight. "This play is
emotionally compelling and really, really funny," says director
Cynthia Davies. "The things that are addressed are honest. I've never
seen any of this material on stage before." Describing the production
as Sex and the City meets Steel Magnolias, Davies says men
will find the chick chat intriguing and women will find it witty. This
premiere, the American debut for Canadian playwright Paddy
Gillard-Bentley's work, features an all-Colorado cast. "We decided to
make each performance region-specific, and this version will be at Cherry
Creek," says Davies. "It has been an incredibly dynamic process
working directly with the playwright. This is not an old theme that has
been done over and over. This story is totally fresh and new."
Shaking the Dew
From the Lilies is focused on Cherry Creek's loos.
Lilies runs through June 18. Tickets are $25
for adults, $10 for students; call 303-499-0383 or go to www.cjdproductions.com.
-- Kity Ironton