“Warning: This show contains feminine subject matter including teenage diaries, breast feeding, tampons, shadow puppets, pantyhose, menstrual cycles, slumber parties, menopause and maxi pads.”
Yep, this show comes with a warning label. Metamaiden and I can’t seem to escape daring female theater this fall, though Girls Only is only edgy if you get squeamish during random conversations about the topics in the warning label. Since the lone guy in the audience, who was sitting next to Metamaiden, left during intermission, I guess the label is warranted. I saw the house manager whispering in his ear before he left, probably warning him about the ramped up female content in the second half.
But, let’s go back to how we ended up at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, again, walking to a show alongside all of the little Elsas and Annas who were seeing Frozen across the sidewalk.* It was a whirlwind 24 hour overnight trip. Mr Metawitches had decided to go to a Denver concert by Company of Thieves, one of his favorite bands, who are on a reunion tour. Metamaiden and I decided we’d tag along. I’d been eyeing Girls Only on the DCPA website, and this was the perfect opportunity to catch it. More on the concert at the end.**
It was worth the time spent in airports to get there. This was a fabulous, hilarious show!
Girls Only is an improv/variety show written and performed by two Denver artists, Linda Klein and Barbara Gehring. They originated the show in 2008 in Denver, and have been performing it around the country since then. Set in a typical young teenage girl’s bedroom circa the early 80s, the show is loosely organized around readings from the performers’ real teenage diaries. They elaborate on their diary entries with more of their own true life stories, which most women will be able to relate to. The diary sketches alternate with written comedy sketches, short films, a shadow puppet show, song and dance numbers, improv sketches, and audience participation. Because of the changing nature of the improv and audience participation parts, every show will be different.
It’s wacky, warm and wonderful. The focus is on what we as women all have in common, from childhood crushes to menopause. The duo start the show sitting on the bed, underneath a Shaun Cassidy poster, in just their bras and panties, looking through bra catalogs. They bring us into the conversation, mocking the models silly facial expressions and the unrealistic claims made by bra manufacturers.
Gehring and Klein put on more clothes before long, but they’ve allowed us to see their vulnerabilities right from the start, and that, combined with the lack of men in attendance, allows the audience to feel safe and open up. The laughs were loud, long, and well-deserved.
The bedroom set is remarkably well-used by the actors, who are two girls putting on a show, after all. There’s a small video screen on the right, and just enough room in the center of the stage for dance numbers. A closet in the back serves as the dressing room for multiple quick costume changes, and for the inside of the shadow puppet theater. The ladies race back and forth throughout the audience for various improv and audience participation bits, including an impromptu “just because” shower thrown for an audience member, complete with a condom as a shower gift, supplied by the audience.
Another bit involved the required puberty talk in the gym that all 5th/6th grade girls are subjected to. This one was given by two students, wearing the school uniform (see the top right photo). They regaled us with song, dance, cheers, and personalized advice for certain audience members. Some people just won’t listen. 😉
The second half of the show got even racier. My favorite was the craft corner, since I went through menopause myself not long ago. The crafters shared ideas for the pads and tampons we older ladies no longer have a use for, but still have hanging around the house. Examples include: as an eye mask, stuck to shoe bottoms to mop the floor, use a tampon to replace a wine cork (might have to try that one), tampon hanging by its string as a cat toy, decorate a maxi pad with essential oils as a sachet, and tampon turned into an angel Christmas tree ornament (for sale in the lobby after the show- for reals).
For the grand finale, Gehring and Klein put on panty hose. While dancing to the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from the Nutcracker Suite. In unison. Slowly. It’s a panty hose ballet. It’s a thrilling, exciting adventure, as you wait for the panty hose to run, or for them to realize they’ve pulled the first leg up too far to be able to get the second foot in. If you’ve ever worn panty hose, you know what I mean. This is why the guys can’t be there. I tried to explain to my husband why it was so hilarious, and his eyes glazed over after the first sentence. But the camaraderie in a room full of a couple hundred women was life-giving.
Both women are multi-talented performers, with many years of experience in comedy, improv, writing, and acting. I salute them for appearing in only their underwear, something normal, middle-aged women are discouraged from doing live. These two not only appear nearly naked, they run and sing and dance and are generally goofy, the way anyone would be at a girls-only slumber party. They take us back to the time when we were still (mostly) confident girls, who hadn’t yet learned to worry about how every detail of our appearance and speech would be viewed by
Gehring and Klein work together seamlessly during the improv skits, whether it’s creating and singing a new song during the shower, or discussing items they’ve randomly pulled out of purses borrowed from the audience. They make light of their height difference during the dance numbers, playing it for good-natured laughs.
This show is by and about two good friends sharing some of their girlhood secrets with each other and the audience. The warmth and humor that they feel toward each other and their childhood selves carries through the show and out into the audience. It left me with a happy glow, like I’d just spent an evening with some of my best, silliest, most endearing girlfriends.
Girls Only runs through 10/22/17 at the Galleria Theatre in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. For information on other shows, visit the Girls Only website. The website also has fun ideas for hosting your own Girls Only night. Here’s a drink recipe and a party game to get you started:
Pink Panties (an audience favorite!)
1 oz. Chambord
Fill remainder of flute with Champagne and garnish with a lemon peel.
Pass Your Purse: All ladies should sit in a circle with their purse. Then, everyone pass the purse two people to the left. Look in the purse you received and pull out the most humorous item you find and make up the best reason you can think of for her to be carrying the item around in her handbag. Go around the circle so everyone has a turn.
Then, pass the purses two more people to the left. Reach inside and pull out the one item in the purse that most represents its owner and tell why.
*Several were dressed in black. I have an evil sense of humor and find this hysterical. (If you don’t understand why, you must not have slogged through my Frozen reviews. I wasn’t happy with the way Elsa and Anna’s character’s were weakened in the adaptation.)
**Mr Metawitches is secretly the coolest member of the family and a music snob. He’s been a fan of the alt rock band Company of Thieves since 2009. This was his 4th time seeing them, in 4 different cities on both sides of the country. He says the band was energetic enough to power a city. They’re still awesome and even more intense than they were back then. Here’s a photo of the lead singer, Genevieve Schatz.
Girls Only photos from the Girls Only website, except the programs photo, which is by Metawitches