Onstage this week at Havana Theatre on Commercial Drive, Excavation Theatre presents Greg MacArthur’s Girls! Girls! Girls!.
Director Jessica Anne Nelson crafts the gritty play into a sometimes uncomfortable, but insightful, look at teen angst and anger. MacArthur wrote the play in the late 90s as a reaction to violent high school stories like the Columbine Massacre and, closer to home, the tragic death of Reena Virk in Victoria.
The bare-bones staging and intimacy of the Havana Theatre puts the audience in the midst of the action, forcing viewers to invest in the players more than in distant seating. The five characters of Girls! Girls! Girls! cover the cliques of high school that many of us will recall. Splitz (Sachi Nisbet) is the key to the action, a popular gymnast used to winning and being the centre of attention with high expectations of her status. When her world is rocked by not winning, jealousy and anger get the best of her. This temperament trickles down to her ‘gang’ of friends, who in reality are more like followers, Puss (Bronwyn Henderson) and Jam (Demi Pedersen) are a hand-in-glove pair of outsiders, with Puss being the more aggressive, dominant of the two girls and Jam a more thoughtful follower. Rounding out this gang of merry misfits is Little Bucky the Fag (Riley Davis) a seemingly innocent boy that the girls treat more as a mascot than an equal, making him show off his ‘wiggly piggly’ to elicit laughter and mirth to brighten Splitz blues.
Splitz’s anger towards the naive and innocent, and drunken, Missy (Isabella St Clair) who trumped her for the top prize at a gymnastics meet, cannot be contained, setting off a chain reaction of devastating proportions. Sending her minions out to reclaim her title, by any means necessary, from Missy, Puss and Jam find her but Little Bucky finds his own trouble. From here the play seems to move in two realms, Nisbet portrays Spitz with single-minded jealousy and rage, which emboldens the gleeful bully in Henderson’s Puss which in turn causes allows Pederson to bring confusion to Jam who must balance her own moral compass and need to fit in. Meanwhile, Little Bucky abused and alone confronts his own mixed feelings which Davis juggles like a cirque performer. The 75 minute play builds like seething temper to a climax that’s not the expected outcome, taking a look at how far a bully can go and how much the bullied can take. No matter what group you identified with Girls! Girls! Girls! takes us all back to those high school thoughts of loyalty, jealousy, self-worth and peer-pressure. All the cast are captivating as they fit their roles into this complicated puzzle of teenagehood.
Girls! Girls! Girls! plays at the Havana Theatre, Tuesday to Friday this week, July 25 – 28, 2017 at 8pm. Tickets are available at the door or in advance on Eventbrite for $20, general admission.