Spoleto 2013 » Theater

Like the movies it's based upon, Slammergirls is cheesy and unpolished but not particularly entertaining

Camp Counselor



Maybe I didn't get Slammergirls because I'm not familiar with the film genre it's based upon. Then again, I don't know many people who've seen any 1960s sexploitation films about women in prison.

The films are described as "so bad they're good," so it would seem as if Slammergirls is hoping for the same. And like the campy films, the play is cheesy, sometimes even cringe-worthy, and the characters are over-the-top. Their dialogue is unpolished and stilted and the situations are implausible. But really, doesn't this just sound like the perfect recipe for a bad play, regardless of its intentions?

The set is a prison cell with four bunk beds and a door that makes a very loud, ominous sound every time it slides open. Dressed in hot pink striped minidresses with matching stilettos, our prisoners are Blossom, the street-smart peacekeeper; Grace, the hardass; Princess, the airhead; and Blair, played by a mannequin (and in the second act, played by the same actress who plays Grace). They're later joined by Bonnie, a society lady in for embezzlement, and Bubbles, another airhead (played by the same actress who plays Princess). They're lorded over by a smarmy guard wearing short shorts with furry handcuffs and a sadistic prison matron, Francine (the same actress who also plays Princess and Bubbles). Confusing? Yes.

There's really not a lot that goes on in the play, besides the prisoners trading barbs and singing songs. Early on, they get a new cellmate, Bonnie (Yvonne Herold), a coupon-clipping society queen who sounds more like she's from backwoods Tennessee (except when she's singing; then she doesn't have an accent at all). Bonnie fixes up the cell with pretty bedskirts and serves as the scapegoat when the other girls get into trouble. (And when they do bad things, like attack the guard, they're punished by having their deodorant and nail polish taken away.) Bonnie wins some money in a sweepstakes, but it goes to her cheating husband since she's in prison. Later, when Bubbles joins the group, we find out that she was sleeping with Bonnie's husband until she killed him. They get on famously after that.

Besides the obvious confusion that occurs when the actresses are cast as multiple characters, the casting seems a bit off — or maybe some of the actresses just aren't giving their all. Three characters in, Francine/Bubbles/Princess' (Laura Hunt) accents start to get a little muddled. Grace (Naomi Doddington) is unconvincing as the tough girl. Blossom (CofC sophomore Andie Boyd) sometimes has a vacant look in her eyes, especially while singing (though she has one of the better voices).

The musical numbers often fell flat because a few of the singers were off-key and the dance moves felt unrehearsed. There were a few exceptions, in particular "I'm Dying — A Prison Opera" which started off the second act, giving us false hopes for the rest of the play. Also, strangely, it sounded like a separate louder speaker was used only for the songs, making the singers' voices too loud and tinny. Although we were ready for the play to end, the final number, "Too Many Bars and Not Enough Men" felt strangely anticlimactic — it seemed like the actresses were having difficulty hearing the music.

We get the feeling that the sexual stuff was toned down for Footlight audiences, which tend to skew toward the senior set. Although Princess is described as a nymphomaniac, there's nothing sexual about her behavior, besides when she makes out with the guard at the very beginning of the show. Francine struts around in fishnets and stilettos with a whip, and there are subtle hints about her taking advantage of the prisoners, but they're easily missed. Blossom has a sex dream early on in the show, but the subject is hardly mentioned after that. All in all, the play is generally harmless and inoffensive, and the only people we saw leave were a family with kids before the show started (good call, parents).

If the Footlight Players were shooting for unpolished and corny with Slammergirls, they accomplished their goal. But if I'm ever in the mood for something like that again, I think I'd rather just rent the original.

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