#102. I find it fairly incomprehensible that less than 100 hundred years ago women didn’t have the right to vote. Literature from the time period always boggles my mind. Men and women’s opinions of female inferiority is disheartening. The extreme measures used by suffragettes to instigate an evolution of thought is admirable. The inhumane measures used by authority to stop the efforts is unconscionable. I always wonder if I would have had the fortitude to fight with such selfless conviction.
Shattered Globe Theatre presents the Midwest Premiere of HER NAKED SKIN. It’s 1913 in London. Groups of suffragettes are garnering public attention by smashing windows. The crime is punishable with prison time. During their incarceration, the protest continues with hunger strikes. Their demonstrations are met with cruel punishment. The women are force fed…often times through their nose. Even knowing the consequences, they persist. They want equality. And they are willing to die for it. Lady Celia is an upper class wife and mother. Eve is a working class seamstress. Within this desperate world of despair, two women find love unexpectedly in the cell next door. HER NAKED SKIN unfastens the corset on the dictated roles of women.
Playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz picks an interesting moment in history to explore sexuality. During women’s fight for public equality, Lenkiewicz takes a look at a private awakening of eroticism between two women. Lenkiewicz contrasts the two subject matters with distinct levels of aggression and tenderness. The actual build-up to the leap of lust wasn’t quite there for me. It went from potato peeling to smooching to hook-up very quickly. There wasn’t a lot of reservation despite the difference in class and the sameness in gender. Once they’re there, Linda Reiter (Celia) and Shelia O’Connor (Eve) play smitten lovers beautifully. In Eve’s bedroom, Reiter displays a surprising softness compared to her worldly and snarky public persona. O’Connor delivers a performance of genuine and earnest wonderment. Forces undermine their courting contentment. In one realm, a dashingly drunk Tim Newell (William) questions his wife’s sanity and commitment. Over at suffragettes’ headquarters, a no-nonsense Melissa Riemer (Florence) is an intense and strong voice for the cause. Under the direction of Roger Smart, the four main principals engage in telling the story… but there are eighteen cast members altogether.
The very large ensemble of supporting characters performs in fairly tight quarters. Although the chorus of fourteen adds an impressive look to the gentleman’s club or the prison, on such a small stage, the movement of so many people is clunky. Shepherding people in and off stage slows down the pace and takes away some of the intimate mystique from the play’s focus. Still, Costume Designer Lindsay Schmeling takes on the challenge and dresses the entire cast in exquisite, vintage finery.
HER NAKED SKIN is a thought-provoking herstory lesson. The matinee I saw was sponsored by the Chicago League of Women Voters. Their presence was a real life reminder of the significance of the sacrifice of thousands of suffragettes. HER NAKED SKINhelps us remember and appreciate our precious privilege to love and vote freely.
Running Time: Two hours and twenty-five minutes includes an intermission
At Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont
Written by Rebecca Lenkiewicz
Directed by Roger Smart
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm
Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm
Thru June 3rd
Buy Tickets at www.shatteredglobe.org