Written by Sander Gusinow
Directed by Samantha Lee Manas
Reviewed by Brooke Clariday
Theatre Reviews Limited
Imagine a world where women are free of sexual violence, oppression, and make the same, if not more, money than men. Finally, in a stunning humanistic dark comedy, “The Fairer Sex” presented by Between Us Productions, and written by Sander Gusinow, this women-run reality is featured. Following the aftermath of a rebellion, in which women fought back against men, and won, “The Fairer Sex” takes the audience on a journey of a society called the New World Order, in which women elect a queen, enforce the law, eliminate sexism, and take on a whole new meaning of the women’s title “fairer sex.” In other words: women rejoice!
The idea of “The Fairer Sex” came to Sander as he puts it, “with the whole Ariel Castro situation,” in which three women were abducted, abused, and repeatedly raped. Taking that into consideration, the script and its characters provide a perspective on the world where women are no longer subjects to the brutal abuse every day, simply because of their sex.
The play begins in the New World Order as two (Lena and Kristen) apprehend Elam, who was being smuggled out of a hospital by Sean, a known worker of the resistance. Kristen is shown with Gwen, the commander, proudly wearing her New World Order uniform, showcasing the female sex symbol encased by a fist punching the air. Gwen instructs Kristen, with the help of Lena, to question the men and eventually, “put them down.” From there, the play unravels as Elam’s true identity is revealed, and Lena and Kristen fight a line between doing their duty and doing what is right.
“The Fairer Sex” is deeply hysterical from beginning to end as Gusinow’s script expands its themes, characters, and revelations. Gusinow lifts the characters up, with lines allowing the actors to make choices, understand their characters, and give stunning performances. Featuring three women, Gwen, Kristen and Lena, the use of femininity is highly different from what would be expected in today’s world. Instead of writing strictly overbearing characters, much like what is found in current productions and television shows, the women are portrayed as strong without being crazy. Yes, they still have guns, and occasionally blow a few balls off, but they are able to show strength through their minds, more than their physicality.
Showing some teeth, and some pure ass-kicking, is the performance of Kristen, played by Josephine Wheelwright. Fighting a few bullet wounds, her emotional state, and a few mishaps with her best friend Lena, Kristen is the vital centerpiece to the production. Wheelwright brilliantly delivers Kristen with as much strength as a nail, but also showcases her vulnerability. In the most tragic hair-raising scene, Gwen reminds Kristen of why she joined the movement, Wheelwright leaves the audience stunned and shaking with anger, as they witness Kristen relive the tragic, vile act that was placed upon her.
With a blinged out version of femininity, Lena is the female opposition of Kristen. Lena is portrayed as the perfect combination of southern ditz meets city class. Wearing bright red cowboy boots that fit just right, a giant bedazzled ‘L’ on her shirt, and a high pony tail that sways back and forth as she walks, Lena embraces her policing efforts with her own personal style. With a stunning performance given by Erica Becker, Lena’s so called “stupidity” by Gwen, played by Michelle Liu Coughlin, is deeply disproved, as Lena forces the resistance and Kristen to find common ground through her relationship with Elam. Erica Becker handles her role fearlessly, allowing for both the hilarious use of Lena’s physically and written lines, but still producing the undeniable nurturing quality of Lena, that leaves the audience both rolling in their seats and holding back a few tears of joy.
Lena also gives the play a look into sexual desire. Her loneliness is discussed frequently, and her libido is put to the test when she is left alone with Elam after his interrogation. Elam’s performance by Billy Giacci compliments Lena well, and their encounter is both sexy and sweet, and gives insight to a woman’s ability to be sexually enlightened and in command.
Elam is the voice for the more common, softer side of mankind. The two other male characters Mark, played by Michael Markham, and Sean, played by Chauncey Johnson, commonly describe women as “cum-bucket sluts,” and prove why the New World Order refers to men as animals. Their performances, though you may hate them at the end, are overly physical and brutal, allowing for Elam’s revelation to be effective. Michael Markham is present on stage, and Chauncey Johnson gives spit-hitting lines that hit that back wall every time he barks “Princess” at Elam. Billy’s portray of Elam’s tenderness towards women perfectly reminds the audience and the New World Order that not all men are animalistic rapists.
“The Fairer Sex” isn’t just a play on feminism. The cast all work in sync with one another to provide a full picture that the world needs both men and women to coexist, and not just for reproduction. Men and women depend on each other for guidance, mental wellbeing, and friendship. Without coexistence, both sides fall further away from embracing what makes each sex great. “The Fairer Sex” is a must see at Theatre Row, and triumphs in its ability to create a cathartic, hysterical, mind-changing theatre experience.