Arts & Events

EYE FROM THE AISLE: TOP GIRLS at Custom Made Theatre is a Moving, Feminist Hit!

By John A. McMullen II
Friday March 28, 2014 - 06:00:00 PM

Laura Lundy-Paine has cast and constructed an emotional and enlightening evening of entertainment in her direction of TOP GIRLS at CUSTOM MADE THEATRE on Gough St in SF. 

Historical figures figure in the first act: a Geisha from the 17th C. who was consort to the Emperor, Pope Joan who was a brilliant scholar and ecclesiastic in drag—who gave birth in the middle of a procession and was stoned by the people, a famous world-traveler who braved frontiers and jungles where proper English women dared not tread, a Saxon woman who rose to be a soldier after they killed her children, the long-suffering and ever-obedient Griselda from “The Decameron” who suffers the abduction of her children by the husband who then puts her away for another…all are at a dinner party at a private restaurant hosted by a glamorous, elegant, and charming red-haired British (hostess). 

The cast is ensemble and extraordinary: Monica Cappuccini (Pope Joan, Louise), Cary Cronholm Rose (Marlene), Carina Lastimosa Salazar (Patient Griselda/Nell/Jeanine), Cat Luedtke (Isabella Bird, Joyce, Mrs. Kidd), Megan Putnam (Waitress, Kit, Shona), Katie Robbins (Dull Get, Angie), and Mimu Tsujimura (Lady Nijo, Win). 

Food is served on stylish plates with linen napkins, the cast dines while each tells her story. They are all excellent in their characters and renditions, but a surprising performance comes from Mimu Tsujimura as the Consort…as she tells her story in spurts throughout the first act, she convincingly gets drunker and drunker and with it more emotional…with occasional comic breaks. Her performance was tour de force on opening Tuesday Press Night, and promises to shine even brighter through future performances. 

The Second Act is something totally different. 1980’s England, working class, a teenager and her pre-teen friend, and her “aunt” who is a rising career woman in London. The range of the actors is amazing in their transitions to utterly different characters. 

The triangle of sisters Marlene (Cary Cronholm Rose) Joyce (Cat Luedtke) and daughter Angie (Katie Robbins) is stunning in its family dysfunction. It is played out between sisters over a bottle of whisky and much sibling resentment. It is about class and beauty and responsibility or lack of a sense of it. It’s about Margaret Thatcher’s England in which many young women aspired to be an Iron Lady and rise in the Corporate Opportunities newly opened to them.

Some player-goers may be familiar with playwright Caryl Churchill’s other often-performed play “Cloud 9.” 

As your consumer advocate, I highly recommend this extraordinary and imaginative production of what is arguably Churchill’s major work. 

Take a look at Jay Yamada’s well-composed slideshow that shows the physicality and pulchritude you are in for if you attend Top Girls at Custom Made Theatre Co. 

Top Girls by Caryl Churchill 

Directed by Laura-Lundy Paine 

At Custom Made Theatre Co. 

1620 Gough St. (at Bush) in San Francisco