By Brittany Crowell

A rogue dildo begins vibrating on the stage as our host from Frigid NY (the curator and producer of this year’s NY Fringe Festival) welcomes us to the space.  Not sure what to do, they awkwardly turn it off and as they welcome the beginning of the performance, playwright / leading lady Sarah Hogewood runs onto the stage and blushingly removes the dildo.

This sets the scene for The Leading Lady Club which is being presented at The Wild Project after premiering at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  What follows features four fabulous femme performers riffing on all things “being a lady” means and the universal experiences we often share.   

While the performances within the piece were all incredibly strong and drove the piece forward with high energy and fast pace, the packaging of the play, a likable feminist sketch show a la SNL meets Barbie, didn’t quite meet expectations.  

The long-form sketches were the most successful, as characters struggled to craft difficult text messages on a subway or were beaten up by their ovaries during a stand-up comedy set; what these successful moments all shared was an exciting “wrapper” on a familiar idea.  The femme issues shared in the piece were nothing new, and excelled the most when they were given new context, such as the Mission Impossible tampon trip to the bathroom or parallel pathing a man vs woman’s experience of online dating.  Both of these experiences gave the audience the ability to see a familiar theme thru a new lens and led to laughter.

The 45 minute sketch show was packed a punch in its short run-time, sometimes leading it to jump frantically between tones and scenes, making it hard for the audience to keep up.  While the longer form sketches were grounded in solid ideas and purposes, the shorter montage moments were lost on me: a series of subway scenes hopped between fragmented statements and tiny, nondescript vignettes; the leading ladies meeting splintered a script between the four performers, making it hard to follow.    That being said, director Jennie Hughes choreographed a tight piece with some beautiful moments of movement, direction & chair-ography that was beautifully performed and fun to watch while not always able to provide cohesion to the overall show.

The piece lacked a through-line, relying too heavily on the “femme experience” as an underlying theme to tie everything together.  As a result, it didn’t provide a new perspective and was hard to track any character or narrative through line throughout..

Overall, The Leading Lady Club is a great idea with a fabulous wrapper, but a bit of a mess in the middle.   There was wonderful talent behind this piece – performers Sarah Hogewood; Nancy Umba; Asha Devi were all fabulous (special should out to Swing performer Katherine Winter who seamlessly and energetically stepped into her leading lady spotlight).  Some of the scenes were moving and humorous, however, the piece was missing a unifying unit to tie everything together and answer the question – Why this?  Why now?

 

THE LEADING LADIES CLUB – by Sarah Hogewood; directed by Jennie Hughes

FEATURING: Malani Carrié; Asha Devi; Sarah Hogewood; & Nancy Umba

Lighting and sound design by Ellie Handel; projection & costume design by Tanya Gupta; assistant direction by Katherine Winder; original music by Kikki Era; Produced by Leading Lady Creative & Gyptanya Studios with Joseph DeAngelis, Michael Scott, & Brian Spector.  Part of the NY Fringe Festival produced by Frigid NY: https://www.frigid.nyc/event/6897:609/