It’s plot that moves the action of a play forward. Without some semblance of a plot a play’s characters, no matter how interesting, will fall flat. In other words, something needs to happen.
Someone should have told Caryl Churchill this when she was writing “Top Girls,” which was performed Dec. 3 at the UAA Mainstage. The cast gave forth a strong effort to bring interest to a script that does nothing to raise interest itself.
“Top Girls” begins with a long dream scene where Marlene (Charlotte Kopp), a modern British woman, is having dinner with remarkable women from history and fiction. The women referenced are obscure, and their background stories are hardly explained, or explained poorly as every actor speaks at the same time. This left the audience members confused and unsure why they were shown any of it. The rest of the play involves several peeks inside the employment agency Marlene works at where the audience sees different women interviewed for various job openings and three scenes with Marlene’s troubled niece, Angie (Jacqueline Heimel). Angie threatens to kill her emotionally abusive mother and run off with her kind auntie Marlene, who she believes is really her mother. This is the only time in the whole show where some semblance of a plot is seen, but it is never allowed to take root. It’s interrupted frequently by summary interviews of semi-interesting characters, which make it seem like a daytime talk show. The overall effect is supposed to be something like a metaphor for the female condition throughout history.
It’s a shame that the script stinks so much, because some of the best female actors in town are in the cast, who all do a good job.
Heimel steals the show twice. In the first scene she plays Dull Gret and gives a monologue about visiting Hell. This was one of the only engaging points in the whole production. Later, she plays the confused, angry, and frightened Angie. She nervously bounces around the stage, supplying much-needed energy to the dull script.
“Top Girls” is essentially two one-act plays with useless characters thrown. Supposedly the series of women being interviewed at Marlene’s work is some sort of examination of choices, but it’s really just boring and pointless.
I thought the play might actually save itself in the last scene, which focused more on Marlene’s family then her job. Unfortunately, the last chance at emotional significance is wasted when a potentially cathartic fight dissolves repeatedly into squabbling about, of all things, politics.
This was a good production of a not-so-good play. I can’t help but think it would be better if it were split into two plays and put on a double bill. At least that way the audience wouldn’t be confused and preoccupied with finding a link between the dream and Marlene’s life. This is one of the few times I’ve witnessed something where the whole is less than the sum of its parts.
“Top Girls” plays Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. until Dec. 12. For ticket information and reservations, call 786-4TIX.