Review | At Theater J, ‘Gloria’ shares Steinem’s stories as well as her activism


“Sharing our stories with each other is how we gain wisdom,” an excited-looking Gloria Steinem said to an audience gathered Monday at Theater J for “Gloria: A Life.” . The show, a tribute to her life and the feminist movement she has been a part of, was written by Emily Mann, who updated the script for this production.

If actor Susan Lynskey found it nerve-wracking to step on stage in the title role and channel the icon who had just spoken, she showed no anger. Lenski’s cottony, self-styled Gloria anchors director Holly Twyford’s spirited production of “Gloria,” a play that — if true to Steinem’s command — dispenses important wisdom, as it studiously but passionately soars. C shares stories.

The walls of the auditorium are lined with slips of paper that record audience and community members’ responses to the show’s themes. Once the play begins, a talented, character-building ensemble, appropriately dressed in jeans in a no-nonsense style, channels people who would have crossed paths with Gloria during her career as a journalist and activist. are

Some are stalwarts of the patriarchy, such as the staff at the Playboy Club where she famously goes undercover as Bunny for the 1963 show. There are some strangers who leave an indelible impression, such as the woman cab driver (a droll Sherry L. Adeline) whom Gloria hears wisecrack, “Honey, if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament”—a Laughter that goes around feminist circles.

Others are friends and associates, including women of color who inspire or mentor Gloria, portrayed by a cast that includes Deborah Kirby, Sidney Lowe and Erin Weaver. Manny Ynglmau brings charm and humor to the role of Wilma Mankeller, the Cherokee Nation’s first contemporary female principle chief, and a dynamic Ava Sal Sica plays Florence “Flo” Kennedy, a lawyer-turned-feminist organizer.

When Lynskey’s Gloria isn’t watching or interacting with these figures, she addresses the audience, often poking fun at past and present sexism. Helping capture both this sexism and the feminist pushback against it are Danny Debner’s projections, displayed above Paige Hathaway’s lecture hall-evoking set. The images include advertisements from the 1950s promoting happy housewives and footage of newscaster Harry Reasoner predicting that Ms. magazine, which Steinem co-founded in 1971, would rapidly Will run out of things to say. (She later apologized. Ms. is still in business.)

Highlights from the 2017 Women’s March and other liberal touchstones also come up. “Gloria” aims to expand its audience into an ongoing movement that spans centuries, not only for women’s rights, but also for multifaceted justice. “Even though we lost. cotton wool In the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court is not the country,” Gloria said in the Theater J production, reflecting Mann’s updates. (The original play opened on Broadway in 2018.)

“Gloria” doubles as a consciousness-raising session, especially in the final 15 minutes, in which audience members are invited to share their reactions to the show aloud. A special guest will initiate this “talking circle” (as the play calls it) at each performance. On Monday, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DD.C) spoke about women’s representation in Congress.

“Humans are communal animals – we’re meant to sit around the campfire and tell our stories,” Gloria says in the play. Like a campfire, “Gloria” exudes light and warmth.

Gloria: A Life By Emily Mann. Directed by Holly Twyford; Costumes, Moyenda Kulemeka; Light, Colin’s bills; Voice, Sarah O’Halloran; Props, Pamela Weiner. About 100 minutes. Tickets: $44.99-$84.99. Through April 2 at the Edelweiss DC Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th St. NW. 202-777-3210.

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