At one point during last Wednesday’s performance of “She the People,” a riotous comedy revue from Chicago’s Second City, three members of the all-female cast portrayed a trio of proudly independent, Goop-consulting “feminine goddesses.” When they asked for questions from the audience, one voice called out, “What are your husbands like?”
The three actors from the renowned improv theater troupe — Lori McClain, Shelby Plummer, and Kazi Jones — looked at each other gleefully and rolled their eyes.
“I actually don’t believe in bringing male energy into the house,” Plummer replied, in the faux-plummy voice of a Lady Who Lunches.
The female energy is unstoppable in this rapid-fire comic spree, with bitter truths about body shaming, sexual double standards, and the persistence of discrimination sandwiched inside hilarious bits involving cheerleaders, game shows, and bachelorette parties. Presented by the Huntington Theatre Company and running at the Calderwood Pavilion through March 8, “She the People” is a high-spirited night out that leaves no doubt about the answer to Beyoncé’s question “Who run the world?” That, of course, would be Girls.
Fellas, you’re welcome to tag along. But on the off chance you haven’t heard, consider yourself warned: It’s not a man’s world any longer.
Working on a spare stage set with a few ordinary chairs and four panels covered in vibrant graffiti, the six performers — the above three plus Lexi Alioto, Jess DeBacco, and Yazmin Ramos — hurtled from one premise to the next. Music director Jacob Shuda accompanied the musical numbers on a keyboard and cued up snippets of rowdy pop songs between bits.
One early sketch featured three friends — one black, one white, one gay — playing a board game called “Privilege.” According to the rules, the white player went first.
Another found a female political candidate (Jones) stumbling through a speech, trying desperately to please the two aides at her side (Ramos and Alioto), who micro-managed everything that came out of her mouth. Too quiet! Too shrill! Too meek! Too bold! The real-life women currently gracing the debate stages surely could attest.
Some of the sketches were little more than brief notions, but they too delivered laughs. McClain, draped in a diaphanous American flag, acted out a preposterous, slithering music video to the tune of Chicago’s power ballad “You’re the Inspiration.” The object of her desire was a gun. She knows her Chekhov.
Alioto, a dynamo, used a ridiculous floppy dinosaur costume to roar back at the ruthlessness of the male gaze. As the leader of a “Greater Midwest regional sales team,” her character protested, she should be able to lead a meeting without every guy in the room wondering “what she’s wearing.”
In one musical segment, Plummer, Jones, and DeBacco, wearing matching silver baseball jackets, busted out a joyous old-school rap celebrating the “Rubenesque” body type. But the musical number that really brought the house down featured McClain and two sidekicks, wearing cartoon cutouts of a uterus and ovaries around their heads as they sang a euphoric breakup song: “No more uter-us,” they trilled, just “uter-you and uter-me.”
And in a skit about acting-world stereotypes, McClain swanned from the wings to declare, “I’m a middle-aged woman starring in a major Hollywood motion picture.”
“Just kidding,” she quickly added. “That would never happen!”
Like so much of this revue, that joke was painfully funny. On this night, at least, these six women were undeniable leading ladies.
SHE THE PEOPLE
By Carisa Barreca, Alex Bellisle, Marla Caceres, Katie Caussin, Carly Heffernan, Maria Randazzo, Rashawn Nadine Scott, Tien Tran, Kimberly Michelle Vaughn, and Lauren Walker. Presented by the Second City and Huntington Theatre Company. At Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts, through March 8. Tickets $25-$69, www.huntingtontheatre.org
E-mail James Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @sullivanjames.