I had the immense pleasure of attending the Tarragon Theatre’s afternoon matinee performance of Girls Like That this past Thursday with my friend Henry Chan. The Tarragon is located in the lovely Upper Annex neigbourhood, within walking distance of Casa Loma and Dupont subway station. It’s tucked away in a cozy corner on a side street, and you almost wouldn’t know it’s a theatre if it weren’t for the banners hanging on all sides of the building and the artsy types milling around outside.
Girls Like That centers on a group of high school aged girls who have been friends since they were small children. When a nude photo of one of the girls, Scarlett, is texted around the school, she is faced with alienation and judgment from her peers, including the girls who are supposed to be her friends. Interwoven with the story of Scarlett and the 6 other girls are several vignettes focusing on the sexism and harassment that women have faced in various time periods. There are also some really fun dance routines with kick-ass lip syncing that really showcase how talented these young performers are. Your heart and soul will be swelling with girl power! (and if they’re not, I dunno, you’re probably a man or something).
Let me just start off by saying that all 7 women who made up the ensemble cast did an incredible job:
- Tess Benger
- Nadine Bhabha
- Shakura Dickson
- Allison Edwards-Crewe
- Lucy Hill
- Cynthia Jimenez-Hicks
- Rachel VanDuzer
These ladies are enormously talented. I was blown away by their impeccable UK accents (dialect coach Diane Pitblado deserves major accolades here), their comedic timing, their dancing and their lip syncing. The musical numbers were really something to see. The song choices along with the choreography (shout out to choreographer Alyssa Martin!) made them very exciting, as well as empowering. These ladies had a number of people in the audience dancing in their seats, and even a few who stood up to dance along! You don’t see such a high level of energy at the theatre every day. What made it even more impressive was the running time of 1 hour and 45 minutes with no intermission. They were able to maintain the same high energy level they brought at the very beginning of the play right through to the very end. Meanwhile, I’m still trying to catch my breath after going downstairs to the variety store for a Faygo Cola and coming back up to my apartment to finish this review. Well done ladies!
Kudos to playwright Evan Placey for tackling this important subject and giving us a refreshing all-female cast. Girls Like That is just as uplifting and empowering as it is devastating and heartbreaking. There is really no better time than the present for this play to be making it’s Canadian debut. I was very happy to hear that there was a class of high school students in attendance on Thursday, because I really feel that they are the ones that can learn the most from this and relate to these characters more so than an older crowd.
Finally, I have to say that Esther Jun, the director, did an absolutely outstanding job with this ensemble cast. Every single one of these young actors brought their A game — their facial expressions, body language and speech were all spot-on. They really worked well cohesively as a group and you could believe that they’d known each other for years.
Girls Like That confronts us with the uncomfortable truth — it’s not always men that are the ones cutting us down, unfairly judging us, or imposing ridiculous double standards — sometimes it’s other women. I often found myself shocked and saddened by how Scarlett’s “friends” treated her throughout the play, thinking, “Wow, would such good friends really treat her this way? Would she really be ostracized by them to this extent? Whatever happened to female loyalty?!”. The unfortunate reality is that there are girls who treat their friends this way and “follow the pack” so to speak when it comes to misogyny. Personally, the friendships that I’ve had with other girls over the years mean everything to me and this play only solidified my belief in girls sticking together — we do run the world after all!
Girls Like That ran from April 17th – May 27th, but check out what’s coming for the Tarragon Theatre in the 2018/2019 season here.
Photo credit: Cylla Von Tiedemann
Next for the Tarragon Theatre
From September 18th – October 28th, 2018, the Tarragon Theatre presents Harlem Duet, written and directed by Djanet Sears. More info.
From October 16th – November 25th, 2018, catch Theory at the Tarragon Theatre, written by Norman Yeung and directed by Esther Jun. More info.