British playwright Penelope Skinner places three hapless women at the center of her trying 2015 play, now receiving its Chicago debut at Steep Theatre. Linda is a 55-year-old marketing executive in perpetual overdrive both at home and in the office. Alice, her dispirited 25-year-old daughter, barely gets out of bed as she struggles to overcome a decade-old social media humiliation. And Bridget, Linda's headstrong 15-year-old daughter, is an aspiring actress bent on proving girls can play Hamlet. Skinner assembles them primarily to unleash a torrent of gendered social maladies upon their heads: ageism, sexual harassment, revenge porn, self-cutting, male dismissal of women over 50, sexual double standards, professional backstabbing by female coworkers, plummeting self-esteem, even the general lack of meaty parts for female actors. By the end of two and half punishing hours, two of the three women are functionally obliterated.
Skinner's tackling issues well worth an audience's attention, but tackling them all at once with relatively equal urgency, and often in more diagrammatic than dramatic fashion, makes for an arduous, scattershot evening. And once things start going wrong for the title character—and boy, do they ever—the succession of suffered indignities feels like piling on rather than a genuine tragic progression.
As usual, Steep assembles meticulous, gutsy actors, and director Robin Witt keeps them rooted in deep emotional truths, providing no shortage of compelling passages throughout the show. As Linda, Kendra Thulin finds moments so harrowing they're difficult to watch. v