Full disclosure, I was offered a comp to this show by the luminescent Lisa Lenihan who played Isabella Bird / Mrs Kidd.
I remember the first time I read Top Girls. Admittedly, at that point I had not read many plays that weren’t Shakespeare or a musical, so something that played with form and reality and lucidity so actively was a shock to my system. In fact, if I am totally honest, I seem to recall not really liking it. Mostly because on the surface, I just didn’t GET it. University being what it is, I had to keep reading and thinking and working on it and as I dove into unearthing just what the heck was going on in this play, the more it grew on me and I came to recognize the images in the play as manifestations of things I had felt or experienced.
The Alumnae production began with some interesting directorial choices. Doors that had cut outs of powerful female shapes in the design, which were re-built into various set pieces; showing women as the literal building blocks of this world, but passively so. A young female dancer moving through the space off the top, and also between scenes provided lovely imagery, but it did feel peripheral to the storytelling for me.
The performances were at times strong, but at times it felt uneven…one of the challenging aspects of Churchill’s text is the overlap of talking. How does one achieve this feeling of natural female conversation, but without having the actors competing and shouty at one another? For a director this is a huge challenge, and one that only at times was conquered in this production.
The overall interpretation of the play felt quite literal, which is likely the source of the challenges I felt the production faced. Each actor did well enough with the work, it just failed to come together as a cohesive whole for me.