THE GOODIES @ Iron Crow Theatre
Going to see a devised piece with an awesome graphic and no major information, is a bit like the box of chocolates: you never know what you are going to get. In the case of The Goodies at Iron Crow though, it is the best kind of treat- one with a full cast of women of color, a storyline reminiscent of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and an evening of exploratory theater with highly relevant themes.
The girls of the Salem Witch Trials are now attending Every High School where there is a graffittied racial slur on the bathroom wall which morphs into a choral intro with lots of LOLs. This time the targets are the minority girls at the school, and they are tired of the blatant racism and second-hand prejudices people slur as if they are making kindnesses. Their affected behavior calls to light the girls of those famous trials that feigned sickness for attention- but weren’t those girls ultimately the villains who were responsible for the death of innocent people? The cover graphic for The Goodies is a woman with the broom tattoo- so are these girl’s witches? Are they on a witch hunt? Or, should we leap to the conclusive stereotypical phrase for women with power- bitches? These girls are more easy to identify with and without giving away the ending sort of have to swallow their pride and move forward. Beside Abigail (the most famous of the Crucible crusaders) I don’t know if there is known history for the rest of them? Do they move on with their lives? Do they marry and reproduce and life a fruitful life?
The most compelling reason to see this play is by far and away: the cast. They gel perfectly, like a clique of high school girls who have spent years forging these relationships. Tina Canady as Queenie is spot on as a social media maven who brings you episodes of “Stall Talk” until she gets too political and isolates viewers. Danielle Harrow is so entrancing as the hippie rebel Tokka, she may have really mellowed out pre-show. Rachel Reckling as Jada has the attitude of a sullen teen down to a science. Aladrian Wetzel as Sam is an academic misnomer, Elizabeth Ung as Xinyi represents the Asian stereotypes that still prevail. Dana Woodson as Ari is all the girls unsure of their bodies and lives, Alex Reeves as Mela represents all the girls fighting with body image and eating disorders. And Jess Rivera as Mercedes is the Hispanic girl who also represents the LBGTQ community. All these ladies double as staff members at the school and as administrators dealing with the fall out. Their physicality and voice pitch and tenor indicate the shifts as much as a headband, blazer, or lab googles. These ladies (girls) are phenomenal. Honesty, their jokes, their quips were well-timed and executed. They migrated like a flock of small teen girls, managing obstacles sometimes with grace and ease, and other times with trepidation and intimidation.
The script has potential. It is a great start to an honest and open conversation about race culture in Trump’s America. But there are a few glitches to iron out. The show was 2.5 hours long with a ten-minute intermission. But from that opening scene with the slander graffitied on the backdrop it takes forty minutes or so to really get the storyline rolling where the girls are ill and staff are called out on their racist bullshit for “reckoning day.” There is another minor point where the teachers are made out to be the enemies, even the ones trying to assist. The education system in our country presents a whole other set of issues to dive into but teachers are put on leave and dismissed WAY TOO often for perceived illnesses because the students run the buildings now- and this is maybe the staging for another devised piece- but I digress.
I think with a little tightening, workshopping, and editing this could be a powerful piece that can go on to be produced in other facets and really cut like a knife. The costumes are all spins of the traditional school girl uniform as well perceived by Kristina Green. Other properties by various crew are well done to transport you back into your days of high school with accuracy and ease.
As for the crew, and there is a lot of them! No less than ten people are credited with script development; but the biggest shout out goes to the projection and animation design by Justin Johnson. His use of twitter feeds with melting words, and gruesome but accurate artistic renderings mesh seamlessly with the stage antics- from sticky notes representing real time feedback on social media, to white masked figures as your inner demons- the psyche of a modern teen is laid bare for all.
SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO? Go. Go see this piece before it is gone. I think good art acts as a catalyst to start conversation and this performance is ripe with opportunity to discuss racial affairs in our nation. Go see these ladies ooze confidence, flip in and out of multiple roles with the flip of a switch, and meld into a group of forthright teens looking for revenge on their wrongs. Go see it and let us know what you think.
The Goodies at Iron Crow Theater. Directed by Susan Stroupe, running 12/1- 12/10. Tickets available at Ironcrowtheatre.org