THE SECRET LIFE OF GIRLSBy Linda Daugherty
Dallas Children's Theater
Director - Nancy Schaeffer
Scenery Designer - Randel Wright
Costume Designer - Lyle Huchton
Lighting Designer - Linda Blase
Sound Designer - Marco Salinas
Stage Manager - Melissa D. Cashion
Properties Designer - Abram Rankin
Videos Designed by Mac Lower & Randel Wright
Abby - Colleen Breen
Stephanie - Reanna Bell
Rebecca - Kendyl Mull
Kayla - Nebyat Teferra
Sutton - Baily Thixton
Anna Marie - Claire Greenberg
Chandler - Elizabeth Magill
Sutton's Mom/Coach - Lisa Fairchild
Abby's Mom - Lisa Schreiner
Reviewed Performance: 2/11/2012
Reviewed by Jeremy William Osborne, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The transitions between scenes are flawless and quick.
Nancy Schaeffer makes excellent use of the entire stage area. Often times a girl walks to another area of the stage as the lights transition and a new scene begins. Also, with no set changes to be made, the show moves along at a great pace, packing a lot of action into only sixty minutes.
The script demands a lot from actresses who seem too young to have experienced all that their characters go through. The guidance of Nancy Schaeffer certainly brings out the best in the young ladies. All the actresses perform very well, especially Reanna Bell as the scheming Stephanie. Where all the characters show instances of being bullies, Stephanie is the one constant "mean girl" throughout. Reanna Bell gives a very believable performance and handles the extreme emotional requirements of her role like a professional. She may have a promising future in the entertainment business.
Colleen Breen, Kendyl Mull and Nebyat Teferra as Abby, Rebecca, and Kayla each take turns as being part of the bully group and part of the bullied. They handle their parts well. Breen's portrayal of someone suffering from depression is very real, making the frustration in Lisa Schreiner's performance as Abby's Mom more believable. I can't help but feel bad for Kendyl Mull's Rebecca, who, at the prompting of Stephanie, quickly, becomes the subject of fat jokes from people who were once and are supposed to be her friends. Kayla is the one character who shows some backbone and tries to stand up to Stephanie, pointing out her meannes, but she too quickly crumples to Stephanie's manipulation.
Unfortunately the play moves so quickly that some characters aren't given enough time to really develop. Bailey Thixton and Claire Greenberg fill their roles of Sutton and Anna Marie well, but are not given story arcs for their characters to really develop. Elizabeth Magill comes in to the play near the end as the new girl, Chandler, who could offer a fresh perspective on the treatment of the other girls to Abby. While her short conversation with Abby does help Abby begin to recover from her depression, Chandler only acts as a filler, conveying some minor information.
The best scenic element in the play is the use of multimedia as a backdrop and storytelling device. A big part of bullying today is happening online and The Secret Life of Girls utilizes blogging, email, social networking, and texting in the story, and projects the acts on the rear screen, giving the audience a clear vision of what cyber-bullying looks like.
Costumes designed by Lyle Huchton, are not only well planned for the characters but also effective in communicating the themes of isolation and difference. Often times the odd girl out in a given situation is dressed in an outfit different from all of the others. For example, as Abby is trying out for the volleyball team and the other girls are trying to keep her out, the team is dressed in vibrant, new uniforms while she is in faded shorts and an old T-shirt.
The Secret Life of Girls is intended for audiences aged 12 and up and deals with a large number of psychological and sociological issues facing teenage girls today. It's an important educational tool for teachers and parents to open a dialogue about bullying, how to prevent it and what to do if they see it happening. Some of the scenes are very intense to watch and can be disturbing to sensitive viewers.
Sometimes The Secret Life of Girls tries to shoehorn subjects into the script without adequately dealing with them. The story, in its haste to keep the audience's attention but address as many issues as possible, glosses over an important and destructive behavior like Bulimia, only implying the behavior in a conversation near the end of the play.
Ultimately, The Secret Life of Girls is a good show for teenage girls and their teachers and parents. It provides an easy starting point for conversations about bullying and destructive behavior. Also, at the end of each performance is a short discussion period with a behaviorist from The Family Place to help answer questions that may be brought up, or guide people to services that can help them if they are in need.
Dallas Children's Theater
5938 Skillman St., Dallas, TX 75231
Runs through February 26th
Fridays - February 10, 17, and 24 ? 7:30 pm
Saturday - February 11 ? 1:30 pm and 4:30 pm
Saturdays - February 18, 25 ? 1:30 pm
Sundays - February 12, 19, 26 ? 1:30 pm and 4:30 pm
Saturdays 4:30pm - $19 Adult & Youth Section A; $12 Adult & Youth Section B
Fridays 7:30pm/Saturday 1:30pm/Sunday 1:30pm & 4:30pm - $24
Youth Section A; $18 Adult/$16 Youth Section B
For information, go to www.dct.org.
To purchase tickets, call their box office at 214-740-0051.