Women Laughing Alone With Salad 2018 019

Women Laughing Alone With Salad

Women Laughing Alone With Salad

Written by Sheila Callaghan
Directed by Susannah Martin
Shotgun Players

After a series of dark, gut wrenching Autumn dramas, award-winning playwright Sheila Callaghan’s Women Laughing Alone with Salad is a delicious, hilarious romp through contemporary gender roles and sexism as defined by our corporate culture. Director Susannah Martin takes the biting satire and flies with it, working bold comedy, exciting physical choreography and outstanding performances into a soaring work that is must-see theater.

Guy (Caleb Cabrera) makes the moves on Meredith (Regina Morones).

Callaghan, WGA award winning writer on the hit TV series Shameless and nominated for a 2016 Golden Globe for her work on Hulu’s Casual, elevates her feminist issues from both the female and male perspectives. She cleverly skewers the both gender stereotypes through the lens of the media, which seeks to create and define what we buy, how we see ourselves and ramifications of those powerful forces. Both genders take it on the chin here and the result are both informative and hilarious.

The first act presents three women; middle-aged Sandy (Melanie DuPuy), Meredith (Regina Morones), a Rubenesque woman in her thirties, and Tori (Sango Tajima), a thin girl in her twenties. They laugh maniacally as they eat their undressed salads, while coveting the burrito being eaten by Guy (Caleb Cabrera), a 29-year-old macho man complaining about his mother and women in general on his cell. What follows is a fantastical look at his inept relationships (or lack thereof) with women; his diet, yoga obsessed girlfriend, his new paramour he meets at a club and his medical treatment consumed mother with whom he’s shared some humiliating and improper moments.

The humor is absurd; Guy’s mother has her fingers bitten of by dead skin eating fish and her uterus keeps falling out in a brilliant sight gag. A waiter in a fancy restaurant, Guy serves the women a pepper, and an onion which they relish like its fine caviar.  Salad, is sexualized here, prompted by the numerous video screens that cover the set flashing ads for better health heavily tailored to thin, beautiful women. Guy acts out against his mother, himself overwhelmed by the male image he rebels against. Tori and Meredith will play out their own battle, their self-images competing in a hilarious salad fight. The first act end with the one of funniest ménage-a-trois sex scenes ever produced (kudos to ‘Intimacy’ Director Maya Herbsman).

Tori (Sango Tajima) is the “ideal” woman conflicted by her role.

Martin’s staging, Christine Crook and Nancy Bach’s costumes, Erin Gilley’s smart video projections, Jake Rodriguez’s hip-hop score and Mikiko Uesugi’s modern set design are all top-notch. I was left breathless from laughter after the first act and hopeful that the second act would be of equal quality. I needed have worried, the second flips the gender roles around driving home the cogent points of how our rigidly controlled images of ourselves affects our psyches’.

Its six years later, and Tori and Meredith are now uber males in matching grey suits and white sneaks working in the marketing unit of a pharmaceutical company. Talking beer, cars and workouts, the men are over-exaggerated male stereotypes, even masturbating together in a corporate male bonding ritual. Enter their boss, Guy, now played by Guy’s mother form the first act; he’s become the middle-aged working stiff he loathed. Their nervous, pitching a new female product with an over-the-top pitch that spouts every cliché available. The bottom line is ‘appearance over comfort”. Guy will have to make his pitch to his female boss, a super, over-qualified brainiac now played by male Guy from the first act in a smart gray suit and heels. She puts him in his place, questioning his commitment to his motives.

Guy (Melanie DuPuy) confronts her boss (Caleb Cabrera in drag).

I’ve said too much already. Shotgun has a sure-fire winner with this production; it’s a smart, comic, polished production that will make you think while tickling your funny bone.

Women Laughing Alone with Salad continues through November 11th, 2018 at The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Avenue, Berkeley. Tickets are available at www.shotgunplayers.org or by calling (510) 841-6500.

Photos by Ben Krantz