It may be set in 1994, it may bespeak an historical era of music, of feminism, of counterculture; but the story behind “Girl Band in the Men’s Room,” written by Robert Ford, directed by Michael Kortlander for Dirty Blonde Productions at The Annex, ArtWorks Theatre is timeless.
Showing the keen compatibility of Fringe and Grunge, the production stages four women about to sign on with a record label. Though on the cusp of success, various crises threaten to splinter the group. Rachel (Katherine Skelton), the guitarist, frets; dump Mom, get a professional manager. Nice image: she lays her strings out on the floor, like a spider’s web coming unraveled. Murphy (Lisa Summerscales), the drummer; squirms with nervous energy. Antsy for success, too much in her head, she considers defection with Merce (Kat Primeau), the singer, sultry and cool, seemingly disinterested, not beyond considering a side deal (or at least a tryst) with a label guy. Summerscales wields her sticks like a dick (the hilarity when she mimics the guy at the urinal). Lindy (Erin Boyes), the bassist, fiddle-dee-dees the Big Moment like Scarlet O’Hara. The atomization presented here makes that final moment of crossing the threshold of the loo door all the more moving: despite their squabbles, they manage, half-cocked, to approach the stage as one.
Truthful performances, taut direction, and judicious pacing ensure a rousing and illuminating glimpse into the backstory or this or, for that matter, any band on the moment-before of no-turning-back. It shows the fragility of that climb to the top. The precipice-costs and compromises; nothing is static, everything is fluid. We get a behind-the-scenes voyeuristic look (it’s a loo, after all) into the flip side of art, the intersection of art and business. Like the music or not, the production gives you an appreciation of what goes into any kind of success. We’re at the edge of our seats because, having made it this far, we wonder if the band will implode.
The staging was apt. Deals get made in the loo; transactions negotiated, finalized. And that’s what these four women are doing, about to sign a contract, about to hit the big time. Setting it in a men’s room, the grunge equivalent of a green room, not only gave the production an act of defiance (making it in a man’s world), it gave it a crowded, claustrophobic feeling as well. It unified and condensed the story. Finally, it set off a nice contrast between desuetude of their present condition and their pending leap into fame and fortune, provided they don’t flush their prospects down the toilet, which is the premise of the story. Nice was having the mirror serve as the fourth wall: we see ourselves in them, they think they’ve got some privacy, so we see them candid, vulnerable. This is quite unlike our imagined experience of them as they would be, diva demi-gods, on stage.
Performances are 5pm, Wednesday, June 22, 6:30pm, Friday, June 24, and 9:30pm, Saturday, June 25. The Theatre is located at 6585 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood. For more information visit http://girlbandinthemensroom.com/. A music video can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcmVg2X-WAI.