Jessica Goldberg’s new play, her fifth collaboration with Echo Theater Company, is about sexism and disrespect by men towards women in the business arena.
By Carol Edger Germain
It is a cleverly staged, fast-paced, three-actor exercise, spotlighting women who have promoted the changes and women who have tolerated the lack of change by finding acceptance, if not full satisfaction and glory, in their accomplishments; women who chose to play along and ignore stumbling blocks placed in their way enduring verbal and sexual abuse, as well as lack of acknowledgment and compensation for their contributions. The setting is the A&R department of a music company, but it could be any business where men have dominated and disrespected women, and women have tolerated it.
We are geared up for the setting with pre-show music featuring all female artists. The opening scene features young newcomer to the music business Kaitlyn (Wylie Anderson, who plays two roles), enthusiastically applying for an intern position, spouting her wokeness with references to her work with the “healing power of sound” applied to the “unhoused”. She is sincere about her dedication to fairness and progress, but it is pretty funny to hear in this particular job interview.
Gus (Sal Viscuso), the head honcho who will decide the final yay or nay, barely listens or responds, even when Kaitlyn asks forcefully that he not refer to her as a girl, as she is a woman. He moves on, but we can see that she will be ready to push back on such sexism. Abigail/Abby (Julie Dretzin) has been Gus’s right-hand (wo)man for over 30 years, and was responsible for arranging a meetup between Gus and Kat Power (also played by Anderson), the blockbuster performer for the company. There’s a slight surge of enthusiasm from both Gus and Abby when Kaitlyn gushes about her admiration of Kat and her devastation when Kat left the earth and the business too soon. She has also studied the careers of Gus and Abby and will do just about anything to get into the company. Ultimately, it’s a yes from both (with Gus’s yes counting for 75% and Abby’s yes counting for 25% of the decision, of course).
The play proceeds as a series of encounters between the characters, touching on Kat’s friendship with Abby, Kaitlyn’s support of Abby during her cancer treatments, and Gus’s cluelessness and carelessness in blathering forward in his usual manner, until he hits the proverbial (and literal) wall. Many twists and turns occur in quick succession before the final scenario, which encompasses expected and unexpected changes and interactions.
Not a minute is wasted, the dynamic remains steady, and there are mini softly change areas on both sides of the stage for Kaitlyn to transition to Kat, and Abby to transition to patient, very cleverly staged and lighted, making the costume/character changes part of the action, very interesting and symbolic of the changes happening in the story.
Kudos for this tight, entertaining, and overall excellent production go to Director Chris Fields and the creative team (scenic designer Amanda Knehans; lighting designer Hayden Kirschbaum; sound designer Alysha Grace Bermudez; and costume designer Elena Flores).
Echo Theater Company at Atwater Village Theatre 3269 Casitas Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90039 (310)307-3753 echotheatercompany.com Babe Fridays at 8:00 pm: Oct. 7; Oct. 14; Oct. 21 Saturdays at 8:00 pm: Oct. 8; Oct. 15; Oct. 22 Sundays at 4:00 pm: Oct. 2; Oct. 9; Oct. 16; Oct. 23 Mondays at 8:00 pm.: Oct. 3; Oct. 10; Oct. 17; Oct. 24
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