A Full Plate of Greatness 

Local production shatters ceilings and expectations.

click to enlarge web_exclusive_full_plate_200.jpg

“In the words of that great philosopher, Mary Poppins, ‘A spoon full of sugar helps the feminism go down.'”-- Irene Ziegler

The most common question people ask me as a theater critic is, “What is the most memorable or best play you have ever seen?”  I am frustrated by the question because I never have a good answer. But now I know why. I simply had not yet experienced it. The answer to that question has shown itself in the form of a locally grown play, “Full Plate Collection.”

I say call it organic because of collaborative process by which the play has evolved. Erin Thomas-Foley got the idea to create a play for women, about women by women when she learned of the Minds Wide Open Celebration of Women in the Arts. She collaborated with Richmond's top female talent, including actress and teacher Jenny Jones-Hundley, writer Irene Ziegler, and director Keri Wormald to germinate her idea then fed it with a local design team, apprentices and actresses.

The result is a play with a timely, clear intelligent voice that simultaneously spoofs, supports and celebrates women. It opens with a shopping network style show featuring classic television hostesses (Melissa Johnston-Price and Debbie Walton) whose names change throughout the show to reference classic female teams like Betty and Wilma, Cagney and Lacy, and Lucy and Ethyl.

They are selling a collection of plates depicting five fictional female influential iconic characters of American culture. These are fictitious fictional characters except for Rosie the Riveter (Kimberly Jones-Clark) but their real fictional counterparts are obvious.

hroughout the first act each plate is introduced and a vignette played out to more fully identify the character. Betsy Crockpot (Lauren Leinhaas-Cook) is stuck in her outdated domestic role. Rosie the Riveter wants to serve her country in the military not on the home front (where she makes 75 percent of what a man would at her riveting job). Boopsie Bleep (the incomparable Lane Satterfield) is a one-dimensional teen sex symbol. Babs the Anatomically Impossible Doll (Courtney McCotter) is well, anatomically impossible. Auntie JJ is bitter about her image of servitude. These icons are outdated and no one is buying them.

The second act is about the evolution these icons must make to become relevant to the times. They “keep what works and discard what doesn't.”  Ziegler delivers an important message while keeping the audience laughing throughout with clever lines and a couple of songs thrown in for good measure.
The audience disintegrated into waves of laughter during “Rack ‘em up” a song that might possibly mention every phrase used to describe women's breasts. Many issues about women and feminism are addressed but the message is also updated. The play ultimately tells women to succeed by using feminine gifts rather than assuming men's traits. It is high time too.
According to thinkquest.org there are 6 million more women than men on this planet. “By 2020, women will dominate the wealth market,” says Nancy Dailey in her article, “A New Look at an Old Cliche” published in Gama International Journal.  Translate those facts into: Women already outnumber men on this planet and will soon control the money, which means women will have a bigger say in what happens economically, politically and socially. Through her script Ziegler challenges women to “Raise the bar so high that men will wish they had ovaries.”
“Full Plate Collection” inspires us to look at ourselves and the world through different eyes, to adapt and improve without preaching. So do the right thing, gather up your girlfriends and buy local. This is the must-see show of the season.

“Full Plate Collection” is playing on select dates through March 27 in the Little Theatre at the Empire. Tickets are $20. For information go to theatreivrichmond.org or call 804-282-2620.



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