By Teresa Crasto
Labeling Abigail begins with the words “Girls suck,” and goes on to explain why girls, or more specifically the stereotypes assigned to them, suck.
At its core, it’s a play about women and the labels assigned to them. Written and directed by Annora Brennan as part of her Senior Theater Honors Thesis project, the play manages to be light and humorous, while remaining a serious piece on a woman’s role in society.
Patricia Culbert, the Senior Project Advisor, describes Labeling Abigail as a “universal story about coming of age as a woman.” She states that the voice challenges the labels assigned to women by saying how females are more than their stereotypes, yet how they also like the labels.
The play centers on five different characters: fourth grader Abigail Attwater; the stereotypical popular girl Babe; AJ, the frustrated college student; the career woman Dr. Whittfield; and the loving yet meddlesome Mimi G. These characters are connected by their shared name, Abigail. Brennan states in the program that “they are not five females, they are one.”
Brennan describes how the play started off as a one-woman show, a comedic piece about family. From there, the focus of the project turned to an exploration of the “stereotypes girls fight against or embody”–the conflict between being “the girl they want to be or the girl others want them to be.”
The highlight of the play is easily the interactions between the different characters. While their individual monologues are well-written, it’s the little things—like Abigail Attwater marrying Dr. Whittfield to her stuffed animal, and AJ comforting Babe after she describes how she lost her virginity at the age of fourteen—that unite the characters and make the play a cohesive whole.
The play is often serious and somber, as the characters reflect on their hopes and fears for the future. For Babe, AJ, and Dr. Whittfield, it is about struggling to define themselves within the stereotypes assigned to them by the people around them.
These characters, while labeled with specific roles, manage to make them more relatable.
For example, as Babe, Lizzie Cohen adds depth to the character of a stereotypical popular girl with a dark past, with humorous comments on fashion and her desire to not be the same woman as her mother, a former model who died of a drug overdose.
While the play is often serious, it remains light-hearted as each character brings their unique sense of humor to the play. The comedy is simple and often at the expense of other women, whether it’s Mimi G describing how her daughter-in-law looks foolish wearing a school baseball cap at her grandson’s baseball game or AJ comparing her brain to a “Cinemax porno” because a woman’s porn has some plot, while a man’s doesn’t.
“Labeling Abigail” explores stereotypes surrounding women while not becoming one. Brennan keeps her characters fresh and manages to create a play that one minute can have you crying and the next, laughing hysterically.