by LIZ PANTING, guest reviewer
The Ultimate Pajama Party is advertised as “the ultimate girls-night-out show”. Going in, I admit to feelings of skepticism; pajamas, pink feather boas, and cabana boys are not my style. And how can a girls’ night out be had at a play? Well, it isn’t a play, really. What producers Tamara Hauser and James Sheeley have created is something that is part play, part cabaret, part dance party, part comedy routine.
Audience members are invited to wear their sleepwear to the event, and can choose to sit in basic theatre seating (cabaret) or on big white couches (lounge); upon arriving, everyone is invited to snack on free appetizers, order drinks at the cash bar, and mingle. The show starts when the “guest of honor”, Lisa (an enthusiastic Melanie Wehrmacher), arrives, and throughout the evening the cast sings and dances, cracks jokes, and plays games with audience members, who are also invited to participate digitally by sending in Tweets to the characters (making this the only show I’ve ever seen where I was encouraged to leave my phone on!). The show is capped off by a disco dance party for cast and audience alike, with entertainment by local band Belladiva.
The point of the party is to celebrate girl-power and the friendships between women (and their gay male friends). “I am woman, hear me roar!” cry out the six female cast members. Indeed, the audience is almost completely female – although men are not banned, few showed up, and why would they? This show is not for them.
Even then, it is not for all women. I could not help but notice that the cast were all white, presumably middle-class and middle-aged, heterosexual women. Audience-participation games included “Diet Bingo” (who has done Atkins? South Beach??) and a race in which audience members had to strut around carrying shopping bags and cocktails. The only men celebrated are gay men who are presented as cliché accessories for straight women; at one point Douglass (an over-the-top Doug Anderson), the only male cast member with lines, sings about being “the gay best friend of someone just like you”. This show is unapologetically aimed at a very particular audience, and if you aren’t a straight girly-girl, the evening may feel hollow to you – and with tickets starting at $69, it is certainly not for women of low income.
The characters are all based deeply in stereotypes; the haggard minivan-driving mother, the repressed housewife who cannot admit to her emotions, the kooky traveler who is admonished by her lack of husband or children, the reliable best friend, and the goofy, jovial plus-sized woman who is the only one wearing loose clothes. They are all likeable, and they each have their moment to make the audience laugh and cheer, but they are too cliché to generate any sympathy. However, in a show that is only partly about the cast, this doesn’t seem to matter.
While this piece may not speak to a particularly diverse audience, its demographic certainly does exist, and for these women, it’s a great time. The Lab Theater, extravagantly decorated for the party, rang with laughter and murmurs of agreement throughout. The enthusiasm of the show is infectious, and it moves so quickly from one scene to another that it is impossible to get bored.
Overall, this is a delightful night out for women who want to have fun and get back in touch with their girly sides, but be home by 10pm. That said, don’t go alone; several of the games for the audience are designed for groups, and there is a lot of time designated for women to mingle and hang out with their girlfriends – they can even go up to the mezzanine overlooking the theatre to have their photos taken on a giant bed by local company Venture Photography (one of several visible cross-promotions).
Should you choose to spend your girls’ night out at The Ultimate Pajama Party, remember to wear your cutest PJs, and don’t take it too seriously.
The Ultimate Pajama Party written by James Detmar, co-written by Dawn Brodey and Ross Young, presented at The Lab Theater, 700 North 1st Street Minneapolis, MN 55401. January 17-February 10, 2013. Tickets $69-99. Charity recipient Jeremiah Program receives 5% of the net ticket proceeds to help women in need move forward with their lives. Information at www.theultimatepajamaparty.com.