Gracie Taylor, Jody Held, & Julia Kean in Rachels. Photo: Eve Theatre Company.
The Pussy Grabber Plays
Co-Created by Kate Pines and Sharyn Rothstein
Directed by Scout Larken, Jessica Sharpenstein, Gracie Taylor, and Leila Toba
Review by Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © by 2019 Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
Unless you have lived under a rock or somehow managed to stay asleep since 2016, there is a lot of anger in the air, and rightfully so. Eve Theater’s The Pussy Grabber Plays takes the point of view of eight survivors of sexual harassment, their struggle, and bravery in the shadow of one of the most notorious Presidential elections in American history. This incredibly relevant production is a celebration of these brave survivors and the incredible stories they share.
Four Beauty Queens Walk into a Bar introduces the evening with bare facts in the guise of four Miss America contestants hashing out their experiences over cocktails. Gracie Taylor, Leila Toba, Brenda Moran, and Jessica Sharpenstein embody different perspectives of the female experience in the face of trauma. Taylor’s Miss Georgia is a sweet southern belle who maintains her modesty while Toba’s Miss Texas is a fierce diva who won the crown despite inappropriate advances. Hashing through backlash and bribes, this piece explores whether appropriate boundaries can ever exist when money and power are on the line.
Sat Nam is simply staged yet powerfully performed by Leila Toba and Susan McNeese Lynch. Where Toba’s portrayal of Karena Virginia has bite within her inner struggle to speak her truth, Lynch provides a foil as she urges her daughter to “speak softly.” In a moment of empowerment, Lynch’s mother puts aside seemingly old fashioned ways of thinking, creating solidarity.
Troublemaker is more or less an extended monologue from makeup artist Jill Harth, performed by Monica Turner. This piece deserved a little bit more care as blocking seemed to stagnate and lines nearly are forgotten. Turner gives it all she’s got as she describes how her life became a media circus after speaking her truth. Jody Held brings out some comedic moments as a Jody, an amalgamation of several people weaving in and out of Jill’s life with varying degrees of good advice.
Jessica closes the first act with one woman’s wacky venture into the world of daytime talk shows. Julia Kean’s Megyn Kelly is a hyperactive and wily entertainment droog, brainwashed by the media machine. And she knows how to get the laughs. Susan McNeese Lynch appears as Jessica Leeds, the very first victim to step forward. Lynch is spirited and empowered and deserves all the applause as she delivers her “I wanna go back to normal” speech.
Jessica Sharpenstein and Scout Larken open the second act performing a pop ballad in Miss America. Uplifting and spirited, the bit provides a moment of hopeful solidarity as a former beauty queen and her nurse sing about how “so sick and tired” they are of the current climate.
Credible Women brings lighthearted philosophical banter to the guilt sexual assault survivors feel. Brenda Moran and Brandi Hornbuckle feed off each other nicely as they attempt to answer the question: why do I feel guilty when I haven’t done anything wrong? It is a message that captures the fullest scope of the plays.
The night of plays ends with Rachels and The Interview. Rachels is a concise commentary on the haunting effects of the assault on Ohio politician Rachel Crooks’ life, love, and career. The Interview, though, is a swirling and bellowing capstone to the evening. Joy Beth DeWitt nails it as twirls into her emotional crescendos and wonderful high notes with middle fingers and “F**k yous.” Truly, as the play builds to a fever pitch, DeWitt’s performance stands out as a rich declaration of empowerment.
With a name like The Pussy Grabber Plays, it’s fairly obvious that this is not for the faint of heart. In fact, the infamous quote, “when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything” is painted in bright pink letters on the walls of the stage. Although these stories are intense, honest, and personal, Eve Theater has exercised due diligence in reminding silent victims they are not alone.
Featuring Joy Beth DeWitt, Jody Held, Julia Kean, Scout Larken, Susan McNeese Lynch, Brenda Moran, Jessica Sharpenstein, Gracie Taylor, Leila Toba, Monica Turner, Ryan Watson, Brandi Hornbuckle
The Pussy Grabber Plays
May 23, 24, 25, 30, 31 & June 1 @ 7:30 pm
Kate Barry earned her Bachelors in English with a Theater minor from Bellarmine University in 2008. She has worked with many different companies around town including Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions and you have probably purchased tickets from her at that little performing arts center on Main Street as well. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. She has written for LEO Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. Thanks for reading!