By Katie Boni
Top Girls is an hour and a half long play written by Caryl Churchill and directed here at Albion College by Visiting Assistant Professor Zach Fisher. The production follows a strong cast of women, particularly Marlene, played by Victoria Gitre. Marlene is a successful business woman at Top Girl, an employment agency where she has just been promoted. After a brief scene at her job, the play really begins with Marlene hosting a dinner party with other well-known women from past decades. Each takes the time to discuss their life and the problems they had during it, as well as the barriers they faced as females. Despite the women representing a large span in time, many of the problems, such as not having body autonomy, are still common today.
After the dinner scene, the play shifts back to reality in the 1980s. As sets are changed out, popular music from that time period plays over the speakers, helping to create an 80s feel. Angie (Emily Budlong), Marlene’s niece, sits behind a log pile outside of a small home with her younger friend, Kit (Juliana Berry). We learn about Angie’s immaturity and the tension with her mother, partially caused by how Angie can be a problem. Angie refuses to listen to her mom and behaves like a child who is ready to throw a tantrum if she doesn’t get her way. This temper shows through as Angie considers murdering her mom. The play then switches back and forth between Marlene’s office, focusing more on her co-workers as well and Angie’s and her mother Joyce’s (Samantha Kelly) home. The play ends with a scene where Marlene has come to visit her sister Joyce, and we receive shocking details about sacrifices that allowed Marlene to get to where she is today.
Performed in Herrick Theater’s black box – an all-black room with black risers that keep the audience’s chairs off the black wooden floors – there is an intimate feeling surrounding the production of Top Girls. Audience members are seated along three walls facing the main floor area, used as a stage. Using the black box instead of the main stage allows the audience to be much closer to the actors, but unfortunately, it does put people on either side of the actors, who mainly are angled straight forward.
Throughout the play, there were moments the actresses talked fast, interrupting one another. At first this was a bit confusing, making the plot hard to follow. As indicated in the Director’s Notes, this is intentional and even written into the script. It is meant to resemble the struggle women go through with having their voices heard and the frequency that men interrupt women. Luckily, these moments were limited to the beginning and ending of the play with brief spots in between.
One of the best parts of the performance was each actress’s ability to speak with a British accent and maintain it no matter how loud, soft or fast they were talking. The accents and outfits really helped place Marlene as a successful business woman in London during the 80s. The outfits and sets also helped easily differentiate between the city and the country where Joyce lives.
This male-free play exemplifies through excellent acting the struggles women have been facing for decades. I found myself cringing as Mrs. Kidd (Kierra Bush) lectured Marlene for getting a job that, as a male, Mr. Kidd should have gotten. It was just as frustrating when characters kept getting cut off when talking, as I’ve experienced that many times. While cringing and being frustrated aren’t necessarily emotions that make seeing a play sound like a good idea, I promise it is! I was thoroughly entertained, and it was a great break from my own attempts to become a successful woman – or just doing my homework. If you ever get the chance, be sure to see Top Girls for yourself!
Photo by Anna Bluhm