There’s a new(ish) tradition in our culture — and a good one — to pull out a famous story our society thinks it knows so well and flip it on its head by telling it from a new perspective. Often, the new perspective is a woman’s. It’s a perspective that’s historically been silenced or skewed or molded into something convenient for someone else.
Director and theater veteran Caroline Stine has taken this idea and applied it to one of America’s most notorious groups of women: the ones living with and murdering for Charles Manson in 1969. As the note from the director says, “The Manson women were young girls from suburbia. They didn’t come from abusive households; they weren’t your typical ‘troubled youth.’ ”
This innocent nature and vulnerability is a repeated theme. The first scene began with the girls singing a cheerful bubbly sort of song with almost hilariously dark lyrics to accompany it. I had flashbacks of watching campy horror movies with my girlfriends in college, but truthfully, 90 percent of this play’s script is made of direct quotes from these women. That made the experience far more somber.
Walking into a theater space early, one might expect to relax before a show. Not so with Charlie’s Girls. The young women were already in place, swaying, chanting and moving in a decidedly creepy and very cultish way as playgoers found seats. As the play continued, we started to feel like we “knew” each girl. This is what the play does quite well. Each girl has a unique personality, and the young actresses embodied their roles with appropriate fervor. Relaxing is a feeling that never came and likely never will for Charlie’s girls — because, as we come to learn, their perspectives were skewed and molded, but this time, from the inside.