By Chuck Graham, TucsonStage.com
Something Something Theatre Company's stark production of “What Every Girl Should Know” by Monica Byrne is more of a statement than a drama, comparing society's inhibitions toward sexually active young females in 1914 and the more enlightened attitudes that were beginning to stir in the pioneering work of Margaret Sanger on the subjects of birth control and abortion rights.
The title refers to a newspaper column that Sanger wrote in 1913 to give young women some direct knowledge of the sexual process that was affecting their bodies. We are told such knowledge was extremely difficult for females to acquire at that time.
We sympathize now, and our hearts go out to the play's four adolescent girls so filled with enthusiasm for life but already kept in a New York Catholic reform school as punishment for letting themselves be defiled by men.
Jasmine Roth directs a cast of Ellie Boyles, Kate Cannon, Robin Carson and Christine Peterson, creating a fine sense of the camaraderie among teens who, in their hearts, don't really feel like they have done anything wrong.
Anne (Boyles) is the angriest. She was molested by her older brother and still feels unfairly treated. Theresa (Peterson) is the compulsively happy one, determined to make the best of this incarceration. She was “taken advantage of” by a concerned doctor that she trusted with kindness.
Lucy (Carson) is the most innocent sexually, but the most imaginative. She, in turn, inspires the other girls with her lustfully romantic stories. Their stirred up imaginations are presented as loosely choreographed dances expressing powerful feelings based on very little actual experience.
Joan (Cannon) makes her entrance after the first act has been running for awhile and becomes the central figure. Her mother was a follower of Sanger's teaching, and was jailed for distributing Sanger's writing and pamphlets.
With Joan's mom in jail, Joan was assaulted by her father. Unbeknownst to anyone, Joan did have time to gather up a lot of Sanger's materials and bring them with her to the reform school.
Joan passes the banned papers around to her new roommates, who voraciously consume them and soon declare themselves to be followers of Saint Margaret.
As their growing fascination with Sanger's ideas is encouraged by Lucy's stories of freed emotions, their conflicts with the Church become inevitable. While the ending is not satisfying, mainly because these actors have made the girls so endearing, the play will leave you feeling thoughtful.
It has to.
"What Every Girl Should Know” runs through Feb. 26, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, at the Community Playhouse, 1881 N. Oracle Road. A representative from Planned Parenthood will take part in a post-show discussion following each performance.
Tickets are $22. For details and reservations, somethingsomethingtheatre.com or call 468-6111