Credit: Claire Demos

British playwright Penelope Skinner places three hapless women at the
center of her trying 2015 play, now receiving its Chicago debut at Steep
Theatre. Linda is a 55-year-old marketing executive in perpetual overdrive
both at home and in the office. Alice, her dispirited 25-year-old daughter,
barely gets out of bed as she struggles to overcome a decade-old social
media humiliation. And Bridget, Linda’s headstrong 15-year-old daughter, is
an aspiring actress bent on proving girls can play Hamlet. Skinner
assembles them primarily to unleash a torrent of gendered social maladies
upon their heads: ageism, sexual harassment, revenge porn, self-cutting,
male dismissal of women over 50, sexual double standards, professional
backstabbing by female coworkers, plummeting self-esteem, even the general
lack of meaty parts for female actors. By the end of two and half punishing
hours, two of the three women are functionally obliterated.

Skinner’s tackling issues well worth an audience’s attention, but tackling
them all at once with relatively equal urgency, and often in more
diagrammatic than dramatic fashion, makes for an arduous, scattershot
evening. And once things start going wrong for the title character—and boy,
do they ever—the succession of suffered indignities feels like piling on
rather than a genuine tragic progression.

As usual, Steep assembles meticulous, gutsy actors, and director Robin Witt
keeps them rooted in deep emotional truths, providing no shortage of
compelling passages throughout the show. As Linda, Kendra Thulin finds
moments so harrowing they’re difficult to watch.   v