I Hate It Here

Shelly is a hypochondriac and Margaret is an agoraphobe. They have been in love since they met in college and have had the idea that they were once one “womb mates” separated by time.

click to enlarge 'I Hate It Here'
'I Hate It Here'

It’s pretty awesome that Cincinnati has SHEatre. The company’s tagline is “theater by and about women, for everyone.” Despite recent national efforts, gender parity remains 4:1 male vs. female playwrights getting shows produced. SHEatre’s mission is admirable: “To showcase the intelligence, passion, beauty, heart, humor and power of women to help solve theater’s parity problem while creating engaging theater productions. And, by using theater as a mirror to reality, we will compel our audiences to ruminate on the past, present and future of women’s experiences.”I Hate It Here is the organization’s first full-fledged Fringe production. Both co-artistic directors are at the helm: Abby Rowald as writer and Caitlin McWethy as director. Rowald stars as Shelly; Sarah Fischer plays Margaret. I have rewritten my next observation 15 times because I can’t figure out how to say something in a “gender-tender” way. Here goes: The play is rough. Shelly is a hypochondriac and Margaret is an agoraphobe. They have been in love since they met in college and have had the idea that they were once one “womb mates” separated by time. Their love has gotten stale due to the challenges of, um, living in a not-cool apartment (so much noise!) with someone who hasn’t left the apartment in a year (Margaret) and someone (Shelly) who hasn’t noticed that the person she loves so obsessively (that she wants to literally meld into one with her) hasn’t left the apartment in a year. There is also, importantly, a cat.With no hint of sci-fi or magical realism or even irony, they decide to become one, to live as the same person. They opt for séance-y things (since science was too hard) and go through internet-researched, drama school-informed rituals like mirroring, holding each other tight, not blinking. None of it works. So then there is a serum. Although very painful, it still doesn’t work. And so on. Until it works. Sort of.The story is alternately worrisome and curious. It seems Shelly is a seriously unhinged narcissist with psychotic tendencies. But maybe I just haven’t had a relationship in a very long time and things have gotten super weird? The internet plays a large and passive role in this story. There are loads of light cues and scene changes where nothing really changes. The moral of the story? I have no idea. Don’t date? Get out of the house? Oh, sisters, I wanted to like I Hate It Here, but this dysfunction ain’t got no fun in it.

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