REVIEW: “She the People” is fiercely feminist, hilariously funny

By Kaitlyn Riggio
BU News Service

As the lights dimmed in the house at the Calderwood Pavilion, the pre-show announcement reminded audience members that “no photography or misogyny” would be tolerated at this show. For the next two hours, the theatre was transformed into a space where women ruled the world. 

The Second City and Huntington Theatre Company’s production of “She the People: Girlfriends’ Guide to Sisters Doing It For Themselves” is a revue of comedic musical numbers and sketches focusing on a variety of social justice issues, “She the People” is a show that is, as they say, “by women, for everybody,” the actors said. 

The show tackled both serious and frivolous issues, addressing them with respect while also being absolutely hilarious. Useless pockets in women’s clothing are hardly feminism’s most pressing concern, but the comedy offset the darker humor of other scenes, such as body image.

In the ”Girls Night Out Boot Camp” sketch, the “leader” of the group acts as a drill sergeant for her friends, asking them “what’s the objective for the night?”

The girls respond in unison: “Don’t get murdered!” As they then go over their strategy: don’t leave drinks unattended, share locations with the group. “She The People” demonstrates the expert ability to convey social commentary through comedy.

Cast of “She the People,” presented by Huntington Theatre Company and The Second City.
Photo courtesy of by Timothy M. Schmidt / Huntington Theatre Company

The cast was outstanding, their comedic timing and ability to switch between different roles throughout the show making it a joy to watch. Perhaps even more impressive than the individual talent was how well the ensemble cast of six worked together. The six women fed off each other’s energy with incredible chemistry.

But the audience wasn’t a passive observer. At certain points they were invited to take control of the show.

In one scene, the audience was asked to write down phrases from prompts such as “give us a phrase someone’s used to break up with you,” and actors scattered the paper slips across the stage. Three actresses had to improvise a scene, taking turns to periodically pick up a paper, and then make the phrase fit in the context of the scene. 

When one of the phrases was “I’m pregnant,” and the actress who read the line was portraying an older mother with adult children (played by the other two actresses), the three impressively negotiated the twist.

This audience interaction makes every night unique and has hilarious, and often outrageous, effects.

The feminine synthpop transitions between scenes, by sound designers Mary Mahoney and Jacob Shud, acted as subtle but effective additions to the theme of female empowerment. Songs from some legendary female artists made appearances throughout the show, including ”Run the World (Girls)” by Beyoncé, “Salute” by Little Mix and “You Oughta Know“ by Alanis Morissette. 

“She the People” is empowering for women. While the show did discuss society’s shortcomings, it also made a point to tell the audience that they had the power to change them. Audience members walked out of the theater ready to face the world’s problems head-on and fight them like a girl.  

But the show goes one step further — it gives the nightly audience a chance to actually make their voices heard and make a difference. 

At the end of the show, the actresses ask the audience members to vote with applause on one of three social justice causes they feel most passionate about. Wednesday’s winner was gun reform, with the runners-up being reproductive rights and transgender rights. 

Then, live on stage, one of the actresses calls Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s office and asks her to back legislation to support the issue the audience voted on. This small action takes the show beyond commentary, into real, tangible action. 

“She the People: Girlfriends’ Guide to Sisters Doing It For Themselves” premiered at the Calderwood Pavilion Feb. 18 and will be in theaters through March 8.

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