The Terrible Girls
nytheatre.com review by Shelley Molad
August 13, 2007
Set in the modern-day South, Jacqueline Goldfinger's The Terrible Girls is a dark comedy relating the strange and uncanny episodes that occur in a local bar/eatery where three girls work. When two of the girls vie for the love of one man, they get tied up in a meddlesome affair. Led by deceit, desire, and obsession, the girls are swept into a series of eerie events that result in a shocking murder.
The characters in The Terrible Girls are not your typical Southern belles. Gretch is a brassy and provocative young waitress who doesn't believe in propriety. Birdie is an austere and conservative maitre d', who never lets her clipboard out of sight. And Minnie is a superstitious and seemingly innocent young orphan, who proves she's not as dim-witted as people take her for.
What makes this play different than a mundane portrait of the modern South is its mythic quality, inherent in Southern Gothic drama. The staging at times feels phony, such as when Gretch knocks down a deaf man with a slow-motion frying pan, and in the midst of all the make believe, the actors sometimes seem to forget what's at stake. But director Chelsea Whitmore encourages the audience to use their imagination.
The music by Tennessee-based artist Robinella perfectly compliments the mood of the piece and gives it the edge it needs. The bluegrass melodies make scene transitions feel smooth and quick, a nice juxtaposition to the slow tempo of small-town life.
Actor Amanda Stitton gives a notably solid performance. While she maintains subtlety in her expressions, she conveys Birdie's deeply troubled inner life. Cameo Mark Emerson is convincing and gripping as the deaf man. Rhiana Basore makes bold choices in her portrayal of Gretch. Puzzling from time to time is Minnie, played by Kiana Richard, whose age is unclear; her costume and rhetoric give reason to think she's a preteen child, but her actions prove otherwise.
Suspenseful and provocative with humorous undercurrents, The Terrible Girls is a refreshing new story admirably written, directed, and performed by an intelligent group of women. While its potential has not been fully realized, The Terrible Girls forces us to reflect on the duality of human nature and witness how deceit, desire, and obsession can lead to transgression.