Max Berry, Contributing Critic - New York City
Written by Lily Houghton and directed by Kylie M. Brown, “Of the woman came the beginning of sin and through her we all die” follows a group of women in a clothing retail store as they try and deal with the struggles of their own lives through spells, other worlds, and ritual. Through this, they create a bond that is seemingly unbreakable until a newcomer arrives and they are forced to re-evaluate the world they created.
The ideas addressed in “Of woman…” were very well done. Ideas of escape and support. Support specifically referencing women supporting each other and what that looks like and doesn’t look like. We see Bluebell’s ideas of support challenged as well as see the point of view of those who may not be receiving that support. The play gives us multiple perspectives from these women and allows us to work out all of the ideas given to us for ourselves. There is no one answer that we are led to and this results in the audience having to think it out for themselves, and really critically evaluating what they just saw, which is exactly what a play like this wants to do. The confession scenes were a great way to provide insight into each character without having to have the “I am so and so” speech. I quite enjoyed each one.
All of the performances were very well done, with one particular standout being Ianne Fields Stewart as Bluebell. Stewart is the first person we see at the start of the play and from that moment onward I was incredibly interested in everything they did. Bluebell having created this entire world for herself, navigates every inch of it with the calm collected grace of someone who is in complete control. Stewart’s two monologues, both very different from each other, were delivered spectacularly. Alongside the great writing by Lily Houghton, these two moments were among my favorite in the play.
Another character that was rather enjoyable to watch was Kirsten Harvey as Pumpkin. Pumpkin, being the observer for most of the play, saw most things through the audience’s eyes. She saw the strangeness and the scariness of this group of women and moved through the play cautiously at first, much like how some audience members might be feeling. Her awkward charm throughout the beginning of the play is a fun contrast to the seriousness of the rituals these women partake in. Though, I would have liked to have seen a little more of her figuring out how to navigate the group dynamic. The scenes with that contrast were my favorite and it seemed she picked up on everything rather quickly. Of course, once you get to the ending of the play the reasoning behind this jump becomes clear, though, I still would have liked to have seen a little more of it.
Despite all of the characters having moments to shine, the focus did feel like it was put primarily on Bluebell and Pumpkin and I found myself curious about the other two in the foursome. We got a little more of Sweet Pea towards the end of the play but hardly get any time with Bleeding Heart.
One final shout out has to go to the beautiful set design by Brittany Vasta. From the moment I walked into the theater, I felt as though I was transported into Bluebell’s world. A lovely combination of abstract and realistic for a piece that feels like it lives between the two.
“Of the woman…” was a thought-provoking piece of theater that calls into question the sincerity of bonds we claim to have built.
“Of the woman came the beginning of sin and through her we all die” was written by Lilly Houghton and directed by Kylie M. Brown.
It was co-produced with Leigh Honigman.
It featured Ianne Fields Stewart, Sabina Friedman-Seltz, Kirsten Harvey, Carolyn Kettig, Starr Kirkland, and Bear Brummel. With Understudies Keith Caram, Starr Kirkland, and Paige Sciarrino.
It featured scenic design by Brittany Vasta.
Costume Design by Alice Tavener.
Lighting design by Catherine Clark
And sound design by Ash Zeitler
The show runs October 13th-20th at the Medicine Show Theatre (549 W 52nd St New York NY 10019) presented by Normal Ave.
For more information go to: https://www.normalave.org/ofthewoman