Stage and Cinema film and theatre reviews
 

She Like Girls by Chisa Hutchinson – Off Broadway Theater Review

  

JOY AND BLEAKNESS

 

picture - She Like GirlsTheater Review

by Arielle Lipshaw

published December 13, 2009

 

She Like Girls

now playing Off Broadway at the Ohio Theatre

through December 29

 

In the Off Broadway play She Like Girls, Kia is an inner-city teenager, living with her single mom and trying to succeed in school. Like any high school student, she’s been having dreams about one of her classmates which tantalize and disturb her. What’s Kia’s secret? The fellow student haunting her dreams is a cheerleader named Marisol (Karen Sours). She’s not sure what to make of all this, until one day, her English teacher gives her an Adrienne Rich poem to read, and her whole life changes. 

 

Emerging playwright Chisa Hutchinson has taken what could have been a very simple story and crafted it into a poignant tale of the implications a girl’s first love has for everyone she knows. The short scenes feature the ordinary cast of a high school drama—the dedicated teacher, the bullying girls, the platonic best friend—and show what effect even the most innocent interactions have on Kia’s path to understanding herself. 

 

Karen Eilbacher as Kia Clark is an extraordinarily convincing teenager. From her embarrassment at talking about romantic matters with her mother, to the grin which spreads across her face as she shyly talks on the phone with her girlfriend, Ms. Eilbacher takes Kia on a journey from confused kid to confident young woman. Mr. Keys (Adam Belvo) is another character of note, the slightly too-earnest English teacher we all remember from high school who, despite the challenges he faces from his uninterested students, takes the time to see something special in Kia. 

 

Despite some missteps with plot (the seventeen year old girl who gets breast cancer and beaten up by her mother is a little forced and reminiscent of an after-school special), the triumph of She Like Girls is that characters who could easily have fallen into stereotypes become, through the strength of the writing and direction, fully realized and always surprising. Kia’s mother, Regina (Amelia Fowler), for example, the hardworking woman who only wants a better life for her daughter, illustrates that not all issues are black and white, and not all problems are easily solved. What happens when you’ve always considered homosexuality to be wrong, and then find you can’t stop loving your daughter when you suspect she might be gay? 

 

Unfortunately, the play’s freshness does not sustain throughout the entire 90 minutes. Despite the relevance of the characters, the plot itself relies rather too heavily on the classic “dead lesbian” trope found in such works as The Children’s Hour and The Killing of Sister George. In the twenty-first century, why must the wages of the “sin” of lesbianism still be death? Though the play’s ending is sadly all too realistic—according to a recent FBI report, in 2008 there were 1700 victims of sexuality-related hate crimes in the US—Ms. Hutchinson does not leave her audience with any message of hope, or even speculate what effect Kia’s life and death may have had on those she leaves behind. It is strange that a play built on a story of such joy and self-discovery should have such a bleak ending.

 

arielle.lipshaw @ stageandcinema.com

 

 
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