Behind the Pink Door at Main Street

14 Sep

By HOLLY BERETTO 

When I look in the mirror, I know I’m a girl. Woman. Whatever. But I don’t spend much time thinking about what it means to be one. The gatherers with their hunters. The virgins and sinners. The road traveled by suffragettes and glass-ceiling smashers. The experiences girls share.

As the smart, big-glasses-wearing geeky one for much of my girlhood, I didn’t share many experiences with other girls: Barbies and boyfriends, lipstick and spin the bottle. I was the girl who wrote in my diary not so much about the flutter of sadness that Steven rejected my invitation to the ninth-grade dance because he was taking Amy (true story, by the way, and shrugged off about half an hour after it happened), but lots and lots about how I admired the language of Emerson and Thoreau (also true, and one of the reasons I later studied writing. Possibly also the reason I didn’t have a serious boyfriend till college, but that’s a whole other story).

So, I thoroughly expected to find Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women (playing through Oct. 14) to be a sticky ooze of pink, estrogen-laden squealing, yet another opportunity for me to feel something wasn’t quite clicking with my XX chromosome pairing, setting me further apart from every other woman on the planet. I mean, I love my shoes and handbags, but I love my books much more. And I’ll never understand the whole thing about saying everything’s “fine” when it’s so clearly not.

What a thrilling surprise to discover it’s a delightfully fresh and clever celebration of all those ridiculous, awkward moments of girlhood and womanhood, told through a breezy series of sketch comedy routines, audience-participation improvisations, oddball videos and the occasional shadow puppet show.

Brought to Main Street Theater’s Chelsea Market Space through the sponsorship of I.W. Marks Jewelers, the two-woman comedy caused a minor sensation in Denver, before meandering across the Midwest. Written by Barbara Gehring and Linda Klien, the piece is a loose look at everything girly, from unrequited love to turning your whites pink in the washing machine to those inane and embarrassing puberty presentations you have in the fifth grade. But the writing is so humorously poignant, so welcoming and performers Tracy Ahern and Keri Henson so good naturedly goofy that it’s easy to feel you’re sharing your entire life with some newfound best friend.

Make no mistake: Girls Only is girly. To the max. From the teenage-bedroom inspired set designed by Claire A. Jac Jones, strewn with David and Shaun Cassidy posters, a series of Little House books and paintings of horses to the background music of South Pacific’s “There’s Nothing Like a Dame” and Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna have Fun,” to the Technicolor costumes by Mercy Perrone, the production radiates sheer cuteness. What saves it from being overly sentimental is its sheer force of personality.

 When we first meet Ahern and Henson, they’re propped up on the set’s duvet-covered bed, in the middle of a sleepover, delivering rapid-fire commentary on the airbrushed models in the Victoria’s Secret catalogue, vamping in their own bras and panties about how insane the whole fashion industry is. Throughout the evening, they move on to reminiscences of stuffed animals saved loving in a “memory box” and throw an impromptu shower for a lady plucked out of the audience. There’s also a marvelous bit where they riff on what you learn about women from their purses, but you have to see it to believe it. Ahern and Henson really do it up right, mastering endless amounts of dialogue, silly song lyrics, a crafting session guaranteeing you’ll never think the same way about feminine protection products, and pulling of an elaborate “Ballet of the Pantyhoes.”

What’s so utterly wonderful is that it’s not a show about Barbies and boyfriends, lipstick and spin the bottle. It’s about those moments where you wonder, “Am I really all right just as I am? “ (Answer: yes.) or “Wouldn’t it be so great if he happened to like me the way I like him?” (Answer: also, yes, but you won’t die if he doesn’t.) It’s about knowing it’s just as ok to have the poster of Star Wars on your wall as it is to drool over the heartthrob. And it’s about growing into yourself, realizing that there’s definitely more than one way to be a girl.

As you might expect, it’s a female-heavy audience, although we did see one or two guys, brave souls, gamely along for the ride. And what a funny, quirky, endearing ride it is. As my gal pal Pam so wonderfully summed up: “It’s darling!”

Photo: Tracy Ahern and Keri Henson

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