Friday, November 11, 2016

New Meaker play, "The Lost Girls," has some spooks

The cast of The Lost Girls (Dangerpants Photography)
The Lost Girls
Annex Theatre
Through November 19, 2016

Courtney Meaker writes engaging and untypical and very “current” dialogue in her plays. Her characters do and say things you don’t often expect and talk about life in often-blunt and sometimes funny ways. Having lived here for a number of years, she’s off in Iowa studying how to be an even better playwright.

Her latest work, The Lost Girls, is on stage at Annex Theatre. It contains aspects that Meaker likes to include: women characters (in this case, only women characters) and characters of fluid or Gay sexual orientations. These aspects are still far under-represented in the vast theatrical universe, so her additions are generally making up for that, one play at a time.

The successful parts of this play include a lot of the dialogue and relationship building among the five camp counselor college-aged women who all have been recruited for the very first time to this spooky camp. Except one of them attended camp as a teen and tells them the tale of the foundation of the property and why it has that haunted reputation. And there’s an interesting “women empowered girls and got killed for it” story in there.

Director Kaytlin McIntyre does a good job in creating haunted atmospherics (especially on a budget) with the help of spooky lighting (Gwyn Skone), plenty of eerie sound effects (Erin Bednarz) and a flexible “fishing dock” set that allows for speedy transition into a camp bunk bed (Jenny Littlefield).

The almost-contemporary take is that it’s 2008 and these college-educated women are taking jobs as camp counselors for teens they care little about (none of them appear to think that mentoring slightly younger women is something to care about) instead of getting great jobs and starting careers of note. Due to the Great Recession, they apparently have no options other than move back in with the folks after camp. They don’t seem to notice that their attitudes about women and girls are in direct conflict with the “ghost” story’s tale.

The cast is a handful of young talents (if you have six fingers), all of whom throw themselves gamely into the genre of intellectual horror camp tales. They include Rosa (Alysha Curry) who is a religious intellectual with summer camp curiosity about Lesbian sex (and turns out to be the funniest character of them all), Misti (Shermona Mitchell) who will bone a woman if there’s no male around, Donny (Jordi Montes), the Lesbian everyone wants to be with, Claire (Dayo Vice), the punk gender-fluid skeptic, Nashua (Zenaida Smith) the upper-class camp-historian (from being a teen camper) with personality issues, and Pat (Rachel Guyer-Mafune).

Pat isn’t a counselor or a camper. She’s a knowledgeable teen who comes with her mom every summer. So she says. But she knows way more than anyone about all the ghosts and their motivations and tries to save everyone – If They Would Just Listen To Her!

If Meaker’s aim is to make something fun and spooky that you don’t take too seriously, that’s fine. Even so, since I’m sitting there as an audience member being told a story that is supposed to be a mystery, there’s stuff to “figure out.” And if I’m sitting and figuring stuff out, it should make sense by the end because it’s the end and it should make sense by then.

Spoiler alert section:
I hesitate to get into all the various inconsistencies because…spoilers. But if the dead women are killing people just like the monster, but they aren’t on the side of the monster, they’re just trying to get revenge on people who killed them when they were trying to figure out how to get rid of the monster, too, well, then why would they do that? And who/what is that monster in the first place?

The last question I’ll ask is why The Cranberries 1994 song, Zombie, turns out to supposedly be a sacred song and why do all the young women know it by heart?

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