THERE ARE two kinds of people: Those who know what happens at a ladies' night, and those who can only speculate. What secrets are dissected at the book club? What forbidden topics are broached at the stitch 'n' bitch? Dudes may assume they're the main subjects, but sorry, sweeties—you may not even make it onto the podium.
For one thing, we talk about work, and the sometimes painful, sometimes hilarious contradictions of being a woman and a wage earner. That's the subject matter of Independent Women, the first production from Social Sciences. Director Ashley Hollingshead and a small ensemble put on a performance that combines gently experimental sketches, movement, and monologues, inspired by sources as diverse as workplace statistics, feminist Twitter hashtags, and wartime "Rosie the Riveter" memoirs.
With no singular script to interpret, "devised" shows are by definition a mixed bag. Some sharp vignettes, sweet gags, and moments of vulnerability (enhanced by Action/Adventure's tiny space) are interspersed with kludgy mime and bits that are too on-the-nose for serious theater but not quite funny enough for sketch comedy.
The show also cites inspiration from Beyoncé and several other black performers, but beyond using some Top 40 lady-power songs as a basis for movement, the connection isn't really examined. There are wounding debates going on in feminist circles over the predominance of white, straight, cisgender, educated, well-off voices; you won't hear much about it here. At one point, the performers self-report their privileged demographics, but they never truly move away from a focus on personal experience and cultural metadata. It's a tactical retreat that limits the potential impact from "brave critique" to "creative venting."
This is the kind of post-collegiate show that ends with the performers holding hands and saying things they like about each other. This could be gack-inducing, but if these performers resemble your friends in any way, you know how essential those moments feel from the inside.
Independent Women is a lot like ladies' night. It's a celebration of everyday intimacy; a safe time for a group of friends to talk uncensored about what they hate about themselves, love about each other, and the frustrating bullshit women have to navigate whenever we go to work or try to play. You won't go home changed, but you may feel better for the company.