At Presentation House until February 23 (Port Moody’s Inlet Theatre, March 6-8)
Posted February 20, 2014
You’d better not mind looking at a lot of lovely young flesh because this NeverYouMind production puts a lot of it out there. Taking it off is what A Particular Class of Women is all about and the sheer enthusiasm of these eight actors was enough to get the opening night crowd hooting and hollering.
Playwright Janet Madelle Feindel doesn’t really tell us anything new about who gets into the biz. Not surprisingly, most of these characters carry heavy baggage: Marky (Courtney Vye) was pregnant at fourteen, again a couple of years later; Clown Angel (Lisa-Marie Marrelli) and her sister were repeatedly raped by their father; Georgia Scott (Sarah Dawn Pledge) was gang-raped at sixteen; Luv (Lauren A. Campbell) was married for five years to a guy who repeatedly cheated on her before he started beating on her. And then she left, taking her kids with her.
Now, they all love their job. Or so they say.
Perhaps they protest too much. They know they have a Best Before date. Lil (Michelle Ferguson) has already reached it after twenty-three years in the business. “But I can still turn an eighteen-year-old on like that,” she says with a defiant snap of the fingers. “No problem.” As a dancer at The Cabaret Circus, however, she’s finished. And at the end of the road there’s no pension, no severance, no benefits.
Another issue the playwright really doesn’t dwell on is prostitution, the dark side of stripping. These women are all hooking – well, not Pink Champagne (Flora Karas) – yet, or Glynis (Claire Rice), who has left the business. But hooking is the elephant in the room. And it’s where a lot of too-old-to-strip strippers end up.
There’s some pretty raunchy talk like, “If you can’t eat pussy you shouldn’t be fucking it,” so pop your ear buds in if you’re sensitive. The language isn’t gratuitous; it’s their world. Some are going at it “doggie style” with loads of johns while Petal Rose (Paulina Bustamante), who trained as a ballerina but makes more money stripping, has two high-end sugar daddies – a lawyer and a judge.
Under the direction of Lauren A. Campbell, these eight young women go for gold. The structure is formulaic; Lil is the thread that weaves it all together. We meet each one of the strippers in the dressing room getting ready to do her show. We get her backstory and then we see a bit of her routine: balloons, feathers, leather, whips, frilly panties, some bare breasts, bare bums, no pubes. Although it’s definitely not scuzzy, A Particular Class of Women leans heavily on tits and ass and avoids getting into pressing issues like the early sexualization of our young girls that encourages them to dress like tarts which, in turn, leaves them vulnerable to predation. And so the spiral begins.
What keeps A Particular Class of Women so entertaining, however, is the sheer chutzpah of these performers. Different as a clown (Clown Angel) is from a dominatrix (Luv), these gorgeous young women create completely unique, credible characters that we care about. Crafted so generously and joyously by the actors, the characters win us over with their sheer determination to get on with getting on.
The terrific costumes by Charlene Rowley and the foxy, ass-wagging choreography make the show a lot of good, slightly dirty fun, obscuring the reality of that particular career choice. If it is, indeed, a choice. The characters dismiss psychologists who sympathetically pronounce, “Oh, you must have suffered incest as a child” but there aren’t, I imagine, many strippers/hookers who, at forty, wouldn’t rather be in some other business.
And there’s the rub: strippers make better money than waitresses and, quite possibly, than actresses. As for waitressing, Petal Rose is repulsed by the thought: “Who’d want to serve food to strangers?” she says, appalled just thinking about it.
It’s a bit of a red herring to say this show was inspired by the Ontario court case in which the judge dismissed an assault charge against a man because the woman he sexually attacked was, in the judge’s words, “a particular class of woman.” In effect, she invited the assault. Reference is made to the case but this play doesn’t truly grapple with the harsh, dead end of a stripper’s life. That discussion comes later in the lobby, the parking lot or the long drive home.
Porn? No. Fun? Well, yeah.
Check out the teaser and see for yourself: www.neveryoumindproductions.com