The Suffrage Plays swaddles social commentary in satire | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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The Suffrage Plays swaddles social commentary in satire

Three one-acts from the fight for women's franchise provide a cutting history lesson with Artemisia.

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If nothing else, this trio of one-acts that explore the uphill battles of 19th-century suffragettes will make you grateful. I mean, thank Whatever we no longer live in a world where repeated cries of "shoot them down!" or some such slogan are deployed by the patriarchy whenever women demand something ridiculous like autonomy over their own bodies or equal treatment under the law. Oh wait. OK, scratch that. In pairing Evelyn Glover's A Chat With Mrs. Chicky and Miss Appleyard's Awakening with George Bernard Shaw's Press Cuttings, Artemisia highlights the dismal regularity with which history repeats itself.

Shaw's piece, imagining martial law being imposed as a response to demands for women's suffrage, is supposed to be farce. A century or so past its premiere, it's teetering toward realism. Sure, you'll laugh at the pompous ridiculousness, but "shoot them down" leaves a vicious aftertaste that feels a lot like "lock her up." Glover's dialogue doesn't wield the same blistering subversion as Shaw, but it is also of-the-moment. Director Beth Wolf's switcheroo casting between Mrs. Chicky and Miss Appleyard gives Lucinda Johnston and Megan DeLay the chance to play both working- and upper-class women on opposite ends of the political spectrum. It's a twist that serves both plays well. Brittani Yawn nicely captures the deceptively polite ruthlessness of a suffragette with more use for pistols than petticoats. And speaking of the latter: watch for Wolf's brief but unmistakable examination of pockets (or more accurately, the lack thereof) as a tool of patriarchy. Like the rest of the production, it's keen social commentary swaddled in humor.  v

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