May 22, 2015


The Arts

Girl talk

Theatrical comedy explores feminine experience with laughter and nostalgia

'I was flustered... by his manlihood."

Barbara Gehring actually wrote that about a boy in her diary.

And if you've ever been an adolescent girl, you're probably cringing in empathy with the native Winnipegger.

Don't feel sorry for her. Gehring and Linda Klein have gotten a lot of mileage out of their pre-teen diaries -- not to mention their bras, pantyhose, menstrual cycles and other bits of "honour, truth, humour and silliness" associated with growing up female.

The Denver-based duo have performed their stage comedy Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women to sold-out audiences across the United States, and here in Winnipeg, since it began life as a fringe-style revue in 2007.

Now they're back in Gehring's hometown for a 22-show run.

The 105-minute show is part sketch comedy, part improv and part musical, with plenty of audience interaction as the 40-something performers conduct an estrogen-fuelled "examination of all things girly."

The sketches and musical numbers, such as Up With Puberty and the Pantyhose Ballet, celebrate and honour the milestones along the journey from girlhood to womanhood.

"The thing about the show is it's this universal subject made very personal," says Gehring, a graduate of River East Collegiate and the University of Manitoba.

It opens with her and Klein in their undies, spilling secrets from the journals they both began keeping back in elementary school, which they shared for the first time when they became friends in their 20s. The intimate scene is meant to get audiences in a giggly, slumber-party mood.

And it seems to be working.

During the show's last Winnipeg run in 2010, Gehring says, there were women who saw it three times. "They'd bring back their church group, then their neighbourhood gals and their family," she recalls. "We've had 12-year-old girls in the same audience as their moms, their grandmas and their great-grandmothers.

It's a very safe place to laugh, Gehring says. Or cry.

After one Minneapolis show, she recalls, a woman approached her in tears.

"She said, 'I think I just got reminded of who I am, that I'm not just a wife and a mom, that there's still a young girl inside me.'"

While Gehring attributes a large part of the show's success to nostalgia -- people love to reminisce about their youth -- its "girly" content goes well beyond puberty.

Audiences will also meet a pair of spunky seniors, co-hosts of the TV show Kotex Kraft Korner, who will offer tips for how to use up those leftover boxes of unneeded product.

Despite its XX rating, the show does not ban men. In fact, there are two performances on Father's Day.

carolin.vesely@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 13, 2013 c16

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