Category Archive for: ‘Carol Benet’

Women Laughing Alone with Salad

“Women Laughing Alone with Salad” at Shotgun Players

Carol Benet

Berkeley has four fine venues for theater.  Shotgun Players, The Berkeley Repertory, Aurora Theatre and Cal Performances present some of the best theater in the Bay Area.

Shotgun Players, on Ashby and Martin Luther King, is a small, inventive and excellent theater that brings some of the funniest shows to the stage.  Currently it plays “Women Laughing Alone with Salad” by Sheila Callaghan and it is a riot.

The play deals with how women view themselves after the media forces on them all kinds of advice on beauty and success and creates the ideal women for which they are supposed to aspire. Above the stage on the backdrop are projections of some of these very ridiculous ads, sometimes exaggerated and repeated, that push all kinds of products on women.

The play opens with three women sitting on a park bench in New York City. They are voraciously eating salad in three huge plastic see-through salad bowls on their laps.  Salad eating is the advise they receive from the ads for keeping them healthy and slim.  The process of eating salad becomes more and more outrageous as do many of the other normal actions that people perform that the audience observes throughout the play.

In the next scene Guy (Caleb Cabrera) encounters a sexy woman Meredith (Regina Morons) whom he follows. She wants him to go to Paris so old films showing scenes of people having fun and dancing in Paris appear on the screen.  The actions between Guy and Meredith become very  physical and sexy.  In the next scene he is with his girlfriend Tori (Sango Tajim) in their living room.  Tori is another product of the media blitz as she is constantly performing yoga positions.  Once she finds out about Meredith she becomes very jealous until surprisingly the three of them end up together in a menage à trios that is as hot as the former scene between Guy and Meredith.

One of the original women in the opening scene on the park bench is Guy’s hoity toity mother Sandy (Melanie Dupuy).  She expresses her disapproval of her son and shows that she too has  become very much a product of the media’s influence on women.  In order to maintain youthful hands (we find that the hands are the most important sign of age) she keeps them in a tub of water with creatures that nibble away at the dead skin and leave her hands eaten away and bloody.  This scene is hysterically funny in the way of the Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” was at he Berkeley Rep’s 2009 production.  These two plays push the boundaries of black humor and destruction where the stage crews are challenged to clean up the mess afterwards.

The second act after the intermission has all the characters in changed sexual genders. Everyone works for a company that is trying to come up with ideas for promoting more of the products for women. The women have become men and Guy a woman.  Two men (Tori and Meredith) work for Sandy.  Guy is the CEO of all of them.  Their gender transformations are brilliant and believable.

The tech team that keeps this play moving along smoothly is terrific with sets by Mikko Uesugi, costumes by Christine Crook. projections by Erin Gilley and fight scenes by Dave Maier.  Maier is an important figure in the Bay Area as he is resident fight director of the San Francisco Opera among other assignments. Susannah Martin’s direction is spot on.  She really knows the subject and her team’s abilities.

If you love innovative, funny, well-performed theater, don’t miss “Women Laughing Alone with Salad” at Shotgun Players.  It runs through November 11 but look for an extension.  Parking at Shotgun is the easiest of all the theaters as there is plenty of parking on the street as well as the Bart Ashby Station parking lot. or 510 841 6500.

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