Monday, June 16, 2008

Top Girls

I really ought to have read this one before going to see it. And what's more, I'm familiar enough with Caryl Churchill's work that I should have known I should have read the damn thing first. Oops.

The themes of the opening act emerge only gradually, through the hubbub of non-sequiturs, characters talking over one another, and Marisa Tomei's accent. Why are these accomplished women all so unhappy? Again and again, they come back to their lost children, their need to leave home, to be different or leave the strictures of womanhood behind. Everyone but Patient Griselda wants something more, something different from that which most women of their time have. And in seeking it--in desiring it in the first place--they're unhappy.

In the later acts we're not in this surreal world with famous figures in the past but instead looking at the work and family life of a modern career woman--or what was a modern career woman when the play was written in the 80s. It's a critique of a certain kind of feminism--one that's more self-oriented as opposed to community-oriented. It feels a bit dated to me, and also distinctly British in the way it dwells on class issues and how they relate to feminism. It could just be, though, that Churchill's politics are not my own.

Still, it's a smart play and an interesting one, not to mention fantastically acted.

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