Remember your first day of school, first day of a new job, or even the first day you joined a social club? Did you feel like everyone knew each other and you were the outcast?
I think most people have felt that way at some time in their lives, and that is why when you see the show Hangman School for Girls you can immediately relate. It’s a show about girls bullying each other, and using their imagination, and how they eventually grow and come together. If you enjoy psychological case studies, you will love this production.
Presented by Fullstop Collective, the Vagabond Theatre Ensemble, and Brian Hashimoto, Hangman School for Girls is going on right now at Manhattan Theatre Source, 177 MacDougal St. in New York City through March 27th. Written by emerging writer Lucy Gillespie, who also stars, it's cute, fun, extremely emotional, and thought-provoking.
The girls are Hazel, played by Lucy Gillespie, Chelsea, played by Sarah Ann Masse, Anna, played by Louiza Collins, Jenny, played by Lillian Meredith, and Dina, played by Laura Wiese. I was extremely impressed with the casts' acting abilities. They were able to transform themselves back in time 15 years and were very believable.
The story starts out with the Millet family sending their daughter, Hazel, to an all-girl school in Central London. When Hazel walks into the classroom, she is intimidated and uncomfortable. She feels shy and alone and desperately wants to make friends.
That’s when Hazel meets “Desk.” Desk, played by Nick Afka, is actually Hazel’s school desk, but she imagines that he can talk. At first Desk is comforting to Hazel. She has a friend. Later, Hazel and Desk become intimately involved, and yet toward the end of the production, Desk becomes a violent, abusive friend whom she fears yet loves, like an abused wife.
No one but Hazel is able to talk with Desk. No one knows that Desk has been a part of the school for generations. Yet he is extremely emotional and a vital part of the production.
I was also impressed with Nick Afka’s acting ability. His soul and body get into the part of Desk. His monologue sent chills down my spine.
At one point during the show, Hazel and Jenny play Hangman on the blackboard. To me, Hangman symbolized being the last one standing.
The show has a lot of movement in a small space where the audience can touch the actors, yet director Leta Tremblay does a brilliant job of moving the characters around to encompass the entire space. I also loved the costumes. The girls wear uniforms during school, slowly remove them, and at graduation wear cocktail dresses. The costumes show the progression from childhood to adulthood and the credit goes to costume designer Laura Wiese.
I think with a little tightening up of the script, the show could certainly go to off-Broadway and possibly Broadway. The subject is mainstream and topical. There is so much talk about how girls bully each other psychologically and on the Internet. Even if you didn’t experience this yourself, you may have experienced it through your daughter.
Hurry and get tickets for this show before it closes on March 27th. If you’re like me, you’ll be impressed with the acting and directing. Even if this production doesn’t go to off-Broadway, this won’t be the last time we see Lucy Gillespie. She will certainly go places.