Gendering Shelly Anne

I was really shocked by the reviews of "Planting Shelly Anne" that came out, really knocked off balance. It isn't that the play is perfect and deserves no criticism, but the tone of articles has been dismissive, bitter, and downright cruel. And in a play whose focus is on women's narrative and exploring the deep impact of supposedly mundane stresses, a lot of it comes off as misogynistic.

A little googling can lead you to a couple of reviews, but the one that got me was this that deemed it a "whine-a-thon" and attacked the character and the playwright for being unable to deal with "dishwater problems." His biggest beef with the show was not the directing or the performances, but the scope of the story itself, that this narrative was not valid or worth his time.

But he wasn't the only one in the audience that night, and other audience members I've eavesdropped on, specifically female audience members who juggle children and housework and careers, find this narrative very valid indeed. These aren't just little domestic problems, this is a big part of their life. This play is essentially a woman's story, this is theater for women by women (and the splendid John Reidlinger, as the sole testosterone in the rehearsal room), which for the reviewer came off as a big whiny mess.

I'm too close to this play to speak objectively, but I really think this is a valid and moving piece of art. For those who have seen it, I encourage you to comment on these reviews and put your experiences out there too. Especially if you found yourself or someone you know in Shelly Anne and think telling the character to stop whining and finish her laundry isn't right.


You're right - he left the cast mostly alone and didn't say much about the direction. He just seemed utterly pissed off at the story. I really do think that review was unprofessional.
Karen Seay said…
My reaction to the reviews is very similar to yours. I saw the play on Thursday night, walked out wondering where in my house Jeannine Coulombe has been hiding for the past few years, came back on Friday night to see it again and still wonder how Jeannine at her age got my much older life so right. Yes, I found the reviews misogynistic and self-absorbed. It is far from a perfect play, but it is an honest and real depiction of a character struggling to do the best she knows how to do in a world that demands much more than she's ever figured out how to give. This is whining? No, this is life.

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