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Woman, Idiot, Lunatic,Criminal

Woman, Idiot, Lunatic, Criminal by Terri Tatchell
Directed by Renee Iaci
Norman Rothstein Theatre
January 11th to 20th 2007
Shameless Hussy Productions

Vancouver, BC. So why the long lapse in ranting and raving from the pen or rather the pecking fingers of your peripatetic "bum-in-the-seat"? Well in December my to-and fro-ing between Vancouver and various theatre-deprived locales did not provide much material for a theatre column. After all on a hot humid night in Mexico, watching a Cuban Nights Extravaganza in the Performing Arts Centre of our resort, the only thing that my sun-scorched, pina colada soothed brain could think was "wow, can they cha cha cha!".

But here I am, back in the wind tossed, icy wastes of urban Vancouver, and picking my way very gingerly across ice to the parking ticket dispenser at the Jewish Community Centre, so that I can see Shameless Hussy's Production, Woman, Idiot, Lunatic, Criminal, billed as a "new play for young audiences. And thanks to delightful performances by Ryan Beil (Kyle) and Lissa Neptuno (Meg) as teenage best friends and DJs, it succeeds in this regard. It's funny and educational at the same time.

The title is taken from the Elections Act, Dominion of Canada which stated that "No woman, idiot, lunatic or criminal", shall have the right to vote." The fight of the suffragettes to gain the right to vote despite the tremendous odds against them becomes the inspiration that enables 16 year-old Meg to overcome her fear of public embarrassment and emerge from her basement studio into the world of adulthood. Thanks to a bit of magical realism, Meg and Great Grandmother enter the world of the video projection of the suffragettes, where Meg learns to trust herself and her own desires.

I bet that many a teen age boy would identify with Beil's perplexed Kyle who can't keep up with the rapidly changing emotions of his best friend and fellow DJ, who happens to be a girl. Neptuno captures the ambivalence of a young girl who is ready to grow up but has not yet convinced herself that she can. Diana Swayze was very funny as Mrs. Beecher, the teacher who is "on something". Daune Campbell morphs smoothly between Great Grandma, the centenarian who nods off on the couch, and Great Grandma as the fiery suffragette of 1913.

Although I sat a couple of rows from the front I found that the background sound from the video projections was so loud that it was difficult to hear the three women for much of the time in their suffragette roles. The fact that they were often facing each other at the back of the stage didn't help.

This is a fun play for high school students and I hope that many will get to see it.