Sue and I attended a local production last night at the “Fire Hall Theater” entitled “Shaking the Dew From the Lilies.” The Fire Hall is an amateur community theater, sitting only two blocks from our front doorstep, in the shadow of the Grand Forks Central High School gymnasium. Due to our enjoyment of live theater and the Fire Hall’s close proximity, we attend every production held in the venue that we believe we could find even remotely entertaining.
“Shaking the Dew From the Lilies” is a comedy written by Canadian playwright Paddy Gillard-Bentley about five women stuck overnight in a mall’s public restroom. There are plenty of cautions in the advertisement and playbill that the topics and language are intended for mature audiences only, and the performance proved worthy of these warnings. The show isn’t for the faint of heart or for anyone who might be offended by women talking openly about their sexuality. If you are easily embarrassed, you had best stay at home because every aspect of sex is described in intimate detail during the two hours these women are on stage.
The story examines the role negative sexual experiences play in shaping the way women develop. There are references to the fact that men too are molded by these types of events, but it is clearly the women who are under the magnifying glass on this stage. The five women are from widely varied social and economic groups, but are drawn together by a common thread; that all women are sexual creatures and share a desire to love and to be loved. I felt that the overall message the playwright was trying to get across was that all women (and men) are flawed, and therefore they also take part in flawed relationships which negatively impact their lives. The way women overcome these bumps in life is by sharing them with other women who can understand their feelings of pain and rejection without being judgmental. These confidants can be either friends or strangers, and they give each other the strength to overcome the problems their flaws have created. The dialog also mentions that men deal with their flawed relationships in a similar way, but suggests that men may not be as good at it as women are; a premise worth considering.
My favorite character was Aja, played by Caitlin Lien. She was the pretty young woman that all the men are instantly attracted to. There is only one man in the world that she has ever loved, but was afraid to tell him about her feelings. This man, however, told her he thought of her only as a friend, which devastated the poor girl. All this occurred in High School, and Aja has been in many relationships since, but has always ended them before the man could possibly end it first. Her mother always told her she wasn’t good enough, something she has obviously come to believe is true, perhaps because of the rejection by her one love. The most erotic portion of the play, in my opinion, was when Aja recited her poem describing a certain sexual act she had particularly enjoyed.
Tami, played by Nicole Quam, was the crowd favorite and provided the majority of the laughs during the play. Tami was the most uneducated of the group, coming from blue collar roots which in turn gave her a bit of a cynical outlook on life. She had grown up in a trailer with her single mother, who eventually brought in a step-father to live with them. Tami viewed herself as quite “street smart,” but proved to be perhaps the most vulnerable of the five. Her naïve comments and obvious enjoyment of frequent sex left the audience in howling with laughter.
Cynthia, played by Sara Anderson, was, in my opinion, the most unlikeable character at the onset of the play. She was rich, fashionable, haughty, and intolerant of everyone, especially Tami. Cynthia shared stories of a privileged upbringing, but they all centered around her cold, self centered mother who ruled her life with an iron fist. The mother stories went from bad to worse, which caused the others to begin warming up to this woman who was to be married by arrangement in just a few weeks. It was Cynthia, however, who was transformed the most during the course of this story; becoming a warmer person as soon as she began to realize that she was really the one in control of her life, not her mother.
Susan, played by Skye Mauch, was the woman in the group who had the most difficulty opening up to strangers. Susan and Aja were the only two in the restroom who knew each other, being lifelong friends, but as the story developed, the audience became aware of serious problems between the two. Susan complained about men always being interested in beautiful Aja instead of her, but while she initially admits that she had exploiting Aja’s appeal to lure men her own way, she later lets slip that she is consumed with jealousy and actually hates Aja. Susan has her own issues with her parents, but while she describes how terrible they are, it becomes apparent that she is the one who is truly loathsome; a spoiled brat who complains about everything. By the end of the play, Susan had alienated herself from everyone in the restroom, even Aja. I believe this was done to confirm to the audience that the relationship between friends can also be flawed and that perhaps any sympathetic ear can be enough to heal an injured woman.
Nichole, played by Dr. Adonica Schultz Aune, was the instigator who kept the conversations moving and productive. She was the oldest and the wisest, and seemed to care deeply for the other four. Nichole reveals early on that she’s a lesbian, and while it surprises some in the group, it never becomes a barrier to communication, perhaps due to her honesty and frankness. She was married young to a man and has an adult daughter from the union, which has been over for a while; ever since she decided to follow her true sexual self later in life. Many would think that this confused sexuality would make her the most flawed character in the restroom, but it becomes plain that she is indeed the least flawed. Nichole had a good relationship with her mother, who always loved her unconditionally, and seems to be the only one at peace with her life.
Overall, I found “Shaking the Dew From the Lilies” an entertaining and thought provoking presentation. I was not offended by the topics or language, but I imagine many people would be. I would recommend the play to anyone who may enjoy a little naughty humor as well as to those who don’t mind looking a little deeper inside in order to understand the factors that have made them who they are. It may also be interesting to any men who have ever wondered what women really talk about when they go to the rest room! The production will run through November 20th, with the playwright, Paddy Gillard Bentley, being in attendance during the final weekend.