A … My Name is Alice
Ask any man what he thinks women want, and he’ll probably say he has no idea—he doesn’t really understand women at all. Ironically, most women just want to be understood. That’s why both sexes will benefit from seeing A … My Name is Alice, Nevada Repertory Company’s new musical production.
Originally conceived by Joan Micklin Silver and Julianne Boyd in 1984, the show consists of independent scenes written by 28 different writers, all of which celebrate women in various ways. As director Sue Klemp explains, “It shows exalted moments in life, silly and absurd moments, and deeply sad and confusing moments. … Their purposes are to evoke empathy, give insight into the many facets of women’s lives and do so in an entertaining way.”
Klemp chose the show for Nevada Rep not only because it’s one of her favorites, but also because in a season loaded with male-heavy casts, including the upcoming Cyrano de Bergerac, she thought Alice‘s more feminine vibe was a welcome change.
The show takes its name from the first number “A … My Name is Alice,” which introduces the cast of seven: Casey Ann Bruington, Katy Irwin, Susan Lingelbach, Kimberlee A. Pechnik, Mandy Ralls, Charlotte Smith and Michelle Snyder. Through song, each explains how she’s joined an all-girl band to escape her own dreary, unsatisfying life.
The song is a take-off on the children’s game that begins, “A … my name is Alice, and my husband’s name is Alan, and we live in Alabama.” But here, the lyrics go more like this: “A … my name is Alice, and my husband’s name is Adam, and his girlfriend’s name is Amy, and my lover’s name is Abby, and my analyst’s name is Arthur, and we’re working on my anger.”
Klemp sees this hilarious opening number as a central metaphor in the show. “The idea is that individuals with unique abilities or stories can come together to make something much richer,” she says.
This sets the “everywoman” tone that becomes the only common thread linking the approximately 20 scenes that follow. Their subjects range from first dates to true love, dying mothers, best friends, gossiping hair dressers, gawking construction workers, strip clubs and parent-teacher conferences. The show’s impressive list of writing credits include Anne Meara of the comic team Stiller and Meara (Ben Stiller’s parents), and Steve Tesich, who’s best known as a screenwriter for Eleni and Breaking Away.
One of the funniest numbers, titled “Trash,” was written by Friends co-creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane. “Trash” features Ralls, the show’s dance captain, as a woman stuck pushing paper at a boring desk job, who dreams of a life just like one of the trashy romance novels she’s addicted to.
One recurring number, also written by Kauffman and Crane, features a feminist poetess (Pechnik) reading selections from her ridiculously over-the-top, man-hating collection entitled “For Women Only.”
While most of the sketches are very funny, with lyrics completely unlike any musical theater production you’ve ever seen, a good many of them are touching and meaningful and call heavily upon the performers’ acting, singing and dancing abilities.
While women will thoroughly enjoy relating to the show’s all-girl ensemble and themes, men will also benefit from this rare glimpse into the female psyche. During a rehearsal, many of the loudest laughs came from male audience members. One even exclaimed, “Women are awesome. I wish I was one.”