Theatre Review: Hear Me War at the Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival
The Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival does some great work promoting women and non-binary artists, particularly by selecting a play to workshop and produce through their playwriting cooperative. This year’s selection, Hear Me War, written by Sarah Galante and directed by Elaina Di Monaco, “follows a group of feminists who fear for their lives during an unstable time” as they “fight the arduous battle of dismantling the patriarchy.”
I would elaborate, but the play doesn’t get much more specific. The set and costumes, post-apocalyptic in nature, reinforce that we are in an alternate 2017, where “they” have barricaded Washington DC, and it is a life or death situation for anybody who walks the street. It’s a cool idea, but it’s not entirely clear who “they” is (Trump? The GOP? The commanders from The Handmaid’s Tale?) and the general vagueness of the threats lead to some clichés, of both the feminist and theatrical variety.
However, when the music comes in, there’s not a cliché in site. First, the vocal abilities of the entire cast are excellent, although particularly noteworthy are Mariah Del Rio and Aliria Johnson. The compositions by Sarah Galante and Jaime Jarret are lovely and melodic, a stark contrast to the grim subject matter. I have no doubt we will hear more from them. Particularly moving are “Faster,” a heartbreaking song about rape gorgeously performed by Ariana Sepúlveda, and “Rainboots,” a father’s lament sung by Amanda Jill Robinson. Another standout is a rousing satirical number that includes quotes about women from politicians (yes, they are real, the ensemble reminds us with a wink). The play would benefit from a little more of that biting tone.
While the book of the play could use a stronger narrative, it’s through the music and lyrics that the play transitions from sign slogans to stories, stories about real women, and stories that many women know too well. The best moments concern the individual, and it is ironically in those moments, not the group scenes, that this piece says something about the collective strength of women.
*Note: There was not a song list in the program, so these might not be the exact names of the musical numbers.
Hear Me War
BOOK, MUSIC AND LYRICS BY SARAH GALANTE AND JAIME JARRETT
DIRECTED BY ELAINA DI MONACO
Produced through PWTF’s Women’s Playwriting Collective Program