Women's Playwriting Festival at Perishable

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By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  October 6, 2010

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PACKING A SUBTLE PUNCH Sheehan and McFarlane in This Is How.

Kicking off a season in which all Perishable Theatre plays will be written by women, the 15th International Women's Playwriting Festival is presenting the world premieres of three plays selected from hundreds. It's running through October 23.

They range widely in theme, from the sexual coming of age of a young man in high school, through a wartime story of loneliness and violence in the desert, to an upbeat tale of three women coping with drudgery in an office.

Laura Jaquim's This Is How, directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian, packs a subtle punch. Maggie (Sharon Sheehan) is a high school student driven to casual stairwell prostitution for reasons we can debate among ourselves afterward. We don't know that she especially needs the 20 bucks she gets for servicing boys every other Thursday if one shows up for the eight-minute window of opportunity.

She may be trying to turn off Christian (Sam Hood), an obsessed classmate who has been stalking her, unwilling to believe that she can't love him as desperately as he does her. Maggie's tryst of the moment is with Eli (Clayton McFarlane), nervous and boyishly giddy with anticipation, telling her: "I just want to be a man."

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FRAUGHT WITH TENSION Xu and Hendrix in The Golden Lasso.

Although it's the shortest play of the evening, it convincingly manages to have all three characters change emotionally with one spontaneous action at the end — an action that's not sentimental or contrived but that emerges sweetly from all that came before. On press night, unfortunately, the payoff was badly muted by Christian witnessing something too briefly for it to sink into him meaningfully.

Kristin Idaszak's The Golden Lasso, directed by Vanessa Gilbert, is the play most fraught with tension, yet as a whole it conveys a thoughtful calmness. Its contrasts of peacefulness and violence are numerous. A relaxing whoosh of surf is in the background of this army encampment on the edge of the desert in Iraq. Being surrounded by sand and emptiness is appropriate, because Diana (Jing Xu) is awfully lonely. The only thing she has to look forward to is a nightly Skype video conversation with her girlfriend, Sadie (Leigh Hendrix). Diana doesn't want to worry her by recounting such things as how her typical boredom was suddenly interrupted by gunfire at her convoy. Sadie sometimes has an upsetting day but feels that such things as coping with her troublesome child sound trivial.

Despite the broiling heat, Diana avoids drinking anything in the evening because it's dangerous for a woman to go to the latrines after dark. When she does so, she encounters Steve (Jo-'an Peralta), an Army sergeant, and although he seems like a nice guy, the situation becomes fraught with potential violence. The golden lasso of her hero Wonder Woman would come in handy.

After intermission is the longer Swingin' with Petula, by Mary F. Unser, directed by Kate Lester. In a New York City office, three women are working late at night doing scut work, such as making copies and tabulations. They need to work fast and efficiently because they are being timed against an office in India that is doing the same tasks and which might take their jobs in this competition.

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