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Female Empowerment

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The Skyfire Theatre is a block off the main street in Covington. It's got that "nice little old movie theater look." I arrived early, so I sat down at the bar to have a glass of wine. The bartender told me she was the only volunteer at the Skyfire. Everyone else gets paid. She introduced me to Zachary Casey, whom she described as the producer, owner and etc. She confided that she also works for Casey in another capacity -- on his alligator farm. The largest in the state, the country, possibly the world -- 230,000 alligators! That's what she said! Plus, the original Crocodile Dundee was in residence -- the real reptile wrestler that all the other wannabes try to imitate. He was visiting from Australia, studying the difference between alligators and crocodiles. A little later, a stocky guy sat down at the bar. When he said he was from Australia, I asked him if he was studying alligators. He said he was and displayed a cut on his hand, implying it was an alligator bite.

Well, I've wandered quite a ways from A ... My Name Is Alice, the musical revue that was the object of my trip to Covington. But how likely is one to encounter a theater bar like this one on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Anyway, the jump-rope rhyme that gives the revue its name could easily continue, "and my husband's name is Andrew, and we raise alligators!"

A ... My Name Is Alice (conceived by Joan Silver and Julianne Boyd) was an off-Broadway hit in 1984. The show features 24 songs by a bewildering variety of songwriters. It's sort of a post-feminist romp with the emphasis on satire and nonsense, but also offers the occasional sentimental gulp. For instance, the very first set-up shows two women getting ready for a date. One is 15 and worried about how she will handle herself if "he tries to French me," or even worse, if he doesn't. The other is a middle-age widow going out on her first date since her husband died -- a blind date, at that. Fifteen and 55 have a lot in common (if you're of the feminine sex) seems to be the message here. Well, "message" might be a bit strong; the parallelism is meant to be ironic and surprising. In any case, place names like Queens and Scarsdale give the situation a Big Apple feel. Though at the Skyfire, the actresses didn't try to sound like "New Yawkers."

Director Rita Stockstill (who also designed and ran the lights) kept the production simple and direct. A bare stage with some panels that had the word "Alice" in different type faces and a background of glittery, colored curtains pretty much covers the visuals. The show was left to the performers -- as if they were appearing at a nightclub or cabaret. This approach had several advantages. For one thing, there was little that could go wrong or distract you from the song or skit. And much of the charm of the show grew from the easy cameraderie between the women and their way of playing off the audience.

Deborah Marcelle, Melanie Russell, Irene Gosey, Grace Marshall and Katie Lynn Cotaya presented a panoply of modern urban dames and, at times, stood in for the men who torment them. They were a talented cast, with a wide range of looks, styles and personalities. The variety worked well in a show that covers so much ground.

A PTA conference, a girl's basketball team, a self-immolating poetess who writes "poems for women only" -- these are the sort of slice-of-life specimens that are held up for laughter and recognition. The basic metaphor of "empowerment" is an all-girl band. At least that's the way the revue begins and ends. Though there is not much heard about the band otherwise. In fact, the show moves from topic to topic in a stream of consciousness that sometimes delights and sometimes has the inevitability of political correctness. Naturally, one expects a construction worker to get his come-uppance from the object of his crude flirtatious attentions. On the other hand, who would have imagined a blues singer being scolded for her reliance on double entendre? All in all, I found the show entertaining, but a trifle long. It may be that this is a clever idea whose time has come -- and gone. Of course, there is also the unavoidable problem that I'm a guy. Some of the "gulps" may have been lost on me. But A ... My Name Is Alice is more about having fun than scoring points for the (God help us) weaker sex. At Skyfire Theatre, the audience certainly seemed to be having a good time.

Real women: Katie Lynn Cotaya, Deborah Marcelle, Melanie Russell, Irene Gosey, Grace Marshall in Skyfire Theatre's production of A  My Name Is Alice.
  • Real women: Katie Lynn Cotaya, Deborah Marcelle, Melanie Russell, Irene Gosey, Grace Marshall in Skyfire Theatre's production of A My Name Is Alice.

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