On Friday, Debbie took me to see Bull in a China Shop at Reno Little Theater. I. Loved. It.
I don’t know if it was because it was my first time back in live theater since the pandemic (I’m sure that helped), but this play gave me sooooooo many feels.
They still have a few shows left next weekend: March 24, 25, 26 at 7:30pm and March 27 at 2pm with a post-show talk-back. I plan to attend that the 27th matinee to experience all of the feels again. I look forward to hearing from the cast and crew.
You can read about the show on the theater website, but the gist is a historical story of two women, a professor and her student, who become the president of Mount Holyoke and a teacher there at the turn into the 20th century. But the real twist is they are lesbian lovers and, gasp!, feminists. The president, Mary Woolley, is a butch and assumingly unique in style and approach for her day, while her partner, Jeanette Marks is a more femme character.
They have an age difference, according to Wikipedia, of 12 years. So as whiny and immature as the Marks character is written and regardless that neither Debbie nor I are neither academics, the story very much reminds me of us.
I immediately connected to the demographics of the characters. I also realized quite early that I have never seen a butch lesbian character portrayed in live theater.
Woolley is an aggressive, ambitious, visionary and unique woman and feminist, to which I also could relate. One important line I will never forget was when Marks was berating Woolley for not carrying forth her vision of revolution, and Woolley replies, “I am the revolution.” I immediately thought of all the women like Debbie who have moved through the world as themselves, forwarding the LGBTQ+ change we see today just by being themselves.
There is also an understory of impatience of youth versus the calculating risks and rewards in the battles of revolution. This includes the antagonism of selling ones values out for money that allows them to live their dreams and the dreams of their partner. This is the perpetual question for anyone working toward social justice.
The lead characters, Evonne Kezios as Woolley supported by Tara Rispin as Marks, are fantastic. It took me a minute to fall in love with them, but I did. Hard.
Terri Gray was perfect as proper and equivocal Welsh, who I wanted to punch by the end of the play. Sydney Tello as Pearl and Claire Hachenberger as Felicity were absolutely adorable. Felicity made me laugh the hardest because she was such a chill goofball.
Kudos to the Director, who I hope to hear from at the talk-back. The lighting designer, Chad Sweet, did a great job creating a lot of different environments and turning the stage into a wash of different colors and lighting over something like 26 scenes in 90 minutes.
Let’s talk about these friends, though: Intimacy Director Adriano Cabral and Assistant Intimacy Director Thomas Rao. These friends, working with the main characters, created some bedroom and night time scenes unlike anything I’ve ever seen before in live theater. I actually found the intimacy choreography on Thomas’ website and I’m a little disappointed that I don’t think I got to see all the goods they had choreographed.
The intimacy scenes were really very family-friendly, but, like I said, unlike anything I’d ever seen in live theater before. They seemed very genuine and I felt the intimacy. Maybe I’m just thirsty for content like this.
My favorite scene was Woolley, on a river in China surrounded by unseen diplomats, reflecting in monologue on her love for and return to see Marks again after 6 months traveling. Her musings were so lovely. All the feels.
If you saw or see the play, please drop me a note to tell me what you thought of it. And if you happen to catch your name on an alert in this blog as having contributed to the play, please repost and Thank you.