nytheatre.com review by Leslie Bramm
August 15, 2004
What does it mean to become a woman? What are the tribulations, humiliations, and difficulties that bring a young girl from adolescence to full-blown womanhood? Becoming Woman takes on these issues and more. Lest you think I have some kindred agenda with my fellow female fringes, don’t be fooled by my first name. I am not a woman and therefore becoming one is a journey I will sadly never take. That being said, I found Becoming Woman to be a delightful piece of theatre. Alecia Whitaker and Ellen Hagan have written and directed this generic coming-of-self story. Both are published poets as well as performers, and many of their monologues fall into the prose-poem format. Not usually the kind of theatre that I enjoy, but these two pull it off.
The play opens with them doing a synchronized cheer and the characters (Alecia and Ellen) speaking simultaneously. They do this throughout the play as they trade off personal stories and play characters in each other’s lives when necessary. With not much lighting and no sound cues, these women carry the show on the strength of the anecdotes and their personal charm. They take us through adolescences, first kisses, menstruation, dealing with death, even rape. They are both very young and I have a feeling that their journey into becoming women has only begun. Hagan is funny, smart and gritty in her portrayal of herself, while Whitaker is emotional, expressive and fragile. (A side note: Whitaker has large and expressive hands, but she needs to get them under control. I found the clumsy gesticulation to be a distraction from her performance.)
Becoming Woman does not tell us anything we don’t already know, but serves to remind us of what we often forget. That women are these wonderful, mysterious, tough, fragile, explosive, brilliant, meek, loud, overly-sensitive, able to take it on the chin, thank God we have them to keep the male mentality from taking over, beautiful, needful creatures; and, let’s face it men—in comparison we are brutes. While young girls are going through a rush of hormonal, emotional growth and change, we as young boys are looking to grunt, get laid, and throw things. It would serve us well to spend some time in the feminine skin.