“She the People: Girlfriends’ Guide to Doing It for Themselves” showcases Chicago-based The Second City’s well-earned reputation for grooming top comic talent. What’s unique about this revue is that it is written and performed by an entirely female cast. Created three years ago by nearly a dozen Second City performers, the show, says co-writer, director, and choreographer Carisa Barreca, is a response to the times we are living in now.
“We talk about what’s happening in the world right now,” says Barreca, who is rehearsing with the Boston cast during the day and then performing in the show in Chicago at night. “We point out the prejudice against women, all the little micro-aggressions women experience every day, and we also celebrate what it means to be a woman.”
Structured as a sketch comedy revue, with scenes, songs, and improv, “She the People,” running at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts from Feb. 18-March 8, features five performers moving through the fast-paced show. “We are talking about women in all shapes, sizes, ages, and points in their lives,” says Lexie Alioto, a member of the cast. “The women onstage do not all look or act alike.”
Preparation for performing in “She the People” begins in Second City classes, an incubator that trained such comic superstars as Tina Fey, Jane Lynch, Amy Poehler, and Joan Rivers.
“We like to say that if you look at the credits for almost any film or TV show, chances are you’ll find a Second City alum working on it in some capacity,” Barreca says. She took classes for several years in musical improv, sketch comedy, and stand-up before moving into the writers’ room and onstage, as well as garnering TV roles on “Empire” and “Hot Date.”
“Comedy is the hardest skill set,” Barreca says, “because performers have to be so in tune with the audience, listening and making adjustments all the time.”
Whether the sketch is taking an offbeat view of a bachelorette party or imagining a presidential candidate’s conversations with aides, Barreca says “She the People” may be written by women, but it’s for everyone.
“There are some very heartfelt moments in the show,” she says. “We want to make people laugh, but we also want to make them think. We hope the conversation continues.”
In ‘Hir,’ Taylor Mac brings the family
Playwright and performer Taylor Mac loves to engage in “a radical re-imagining of possibility,” to paraphrase a line in his 2014 play, “Hir.”
Sometimes that means the MacArthur genius grant awardee takes an epic approach to storytelling — see “The Lily’s Revenge” and “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music” — while at other times Mac closely hews to the Aristotelian approach to dramatic structure, as in “Hir.”
“I think ‘Hir’ follows in the tradition of my favorite play of all time, ‘Long Day’s Journey into Night,’ ” says Brooks Reeves, who is directing “Hir” for Apollinaire Theatre in Chelsea Feb. 14-March 8. (Tickets at www.apollinairetheatrecompany.com.) “It’s about people who fiercely love each other and fiercely disagree. The play explores how they attempt to reconcile their differences.”
Mac’s sly sense of humor, combined with a sharp ear for the unsettling impact of blending the familiar with the outrageous, turns the dysfunctional family drama on its head. In “Hir,” Isaac returns home from the Marines prepared to care for his ailing father. What he finds instead is a household in which expectations have been tossed aside. After years of an abusive marriage, his mother, Paige, is freeing herself, sort of. Isaac’s sibling Max is transitioning and supports Paige’s efforts to “dismantle the patriarchy.” Isaac is left to find his way back from the trauma of war while coming to grips with the trauma his own family has experienced.
“It’s darkly funny,” says Reeves, “and incredibly apropos considering the fight and struggle for the soul of America we are in right now. How do we deal with people we love who have abused us?”
Apollinaire founder and artistic director Danielle Fauteux Jacques is returning to the stage to play Paige, the newly liberated spouse. “I don’t look for plays that have a part for me,” Fauteux Jacques says, “but Paige is crazy enough that I have an affinity for her.”
Reeves says one of the things he likes about “Hir” is the way Mac shifts the audience’s allegiance from one character to another. “I think the play skews differently depending on what you bring from your own experience,” he says. “Except for Arnold [the father], they are all trying to do the best they can with what they’ve been given. They want to connect, but are they too broken to do so?”
The Beasts’ Winter Panto
Imaginary Beasts’ annual Winter Panto returns Feb. 7-March 1 at Charlestown Working Theater, this time with the creative company re-imagining “Hansel & Gretel” though the traditional panto lens. The panto, a staple of British family theater, comes complete with broadly comic characters, audience participation, outlandish costumes, and lots of laughs. (Tickets at www.imaginarybeasts.org or by calling 866-844-4111.)
‘Swan Lake in Blue’ at Stoneham
Award-winning director and choreographer Ilyse Robbins takes on a jazz-infused version of “Swan Lake” at the Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham Feb. 15-March 1. (Tickets at www.greaterbostonstage.org.) Inspired by Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet, but with a new score by composer Steve Bass, “Swan Lake in Blue” resets the story with a 16-piece big band and tap dancers playing the roles of the dancer Odette and her besotted lover, a Broadway producer. “Swan Lake in Blue,” like its predecessor, tells its story entirely through dance.
A trio of August Wilson winners
The Huntington Theatre has announced the regional finalists in its 10th annual August Wilson Monologue Competition. Bejunior Fallon of Governor’s Academy in Byfield took first place with his performance as Caesar Wilks from “Gem of the Ocean,” Winter Hillegass of Snowden International School at Copley in Boston came in second place portraying Vera from “Seven Guitars,” and Gabriel Adande from Brookline High School placed third portraying Turnbo from “Jitney.” The three will receive a total of $850 in prize money, and the top two winners will be awarded an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City to perform their monologues on Broadway at the August Wilson Theatre in the national competition on May 4.
Terry Byrne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SHE THE PEOPLE: GIRLFRIENDS’ GUIDE TO DOING IT FOR THEMSELVES
Presented by the Huntington Theatre Company. At the Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts, Feb. 18-March 8. Tickets start at $35, 617-266-0800, www.huntingtontheatre.org