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Party of two

“Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women” is only for certain types of girls.
Party of two
Image by Mark Vancleave

WHAT: Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women

WHEN:Now through June 26; times vary

WHERE: Hennepin Stages, 824 Hennepin Ave.,

COST: $20.50 with studentID;$32.50 general admission

ItâÄôs a musical. ItâÄôs improv. ItâÄôs a shadow puppet show. ItâÄôs Tootsie Rolls thrown to the audience.

âÄúItâÄôs a slumber party in a 12- year-oldâÄôs pink bedroom,âÄù actress Nicole Fenstad said.

ThereâÄôs stuffed animals everywhere, ponies on shelves and a Partridge Family poster on the wall. What is likely a tomboyâÄôs personal hell is the setting for the two-woman show âÄúGirls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women,âÄù a cocktail-studded theatrical evening that has recently been extended a second time since its debut in January.

Originally written and performed by Denver denizens Linda Klein and Barbara Gehring, âÄúGirls OnlyâÄù hit Hennepin Stages in the winter with a new duo composed of Fargo, N.D.-native Fenstad and Minnesotan Heidi Bakke.

Enjoying a performance season that stretches into June, âÄúGirls OnlyâÄù has successfully sustained itself on a gender-exclusive show for four months, going strong.

âÄúI think one woman will come with her friends and then really want to see it with her sisters and her mom,âÄù Bakke said.

âÄúItâÄôs not to say that men canâÄôt go,âÄù Fenstad said, âÄúbut there is something really amazing about the energy of it being all women in the audience. Just like a camaraderie between women.âÄù

This camaraderie is likely forged by a shared appreciation of innocuous commentary rooted in nostalgia for childhoods likely unburdened by trauma or hardship. The overbearingly lighthearted and white-bread humor is apparent by the end of the 10-minute opener about bras âÄî not to mention the musical number that the actresses perform in their underwear âÄî which is an elaborate affair that concludes with the message that boobs arenâÄôt a big deal.

âÄúOur private parts are here in our hearts and now IâÄôm truly free,âÄù Fenstad and Bakke sing, faces beaming and arms outstretched.

The evening, though dedicated to women in title, may be alienating to those who fall on the fringe and canâÄôt dig their heels into the dominating âÄúgirly girlâÄù aesthetic of the show.

âÄúI think one night a woman decided to leave because she had lost one of her breasts âĦ she felt she couldnâÄôt identify with that,âÄù Bakke said.

That isnâÄôt to say that the evening doesnâÄôt have its moments. BakkeâÄôs occasionally dry delivery gives âÄúGirls OnlyâÄù its much-needed self-deprecation, and not the kind that involves the adult performerâÄôs eye-rolls after reading a childhood diary entry.

The highlight of the show is the sketch âÄúUp with Puberty,âÄù in which the duo plays an overenthusiastic pair of 15-year-olds who come to speak to a fifth grade class. The school uniforms, jumpy excitement and knee socks call to mind Saturday Night LiveâÄôs Spartan cheerleaders and âÄúSuperstarâÄù Mary Katherine Gallagher.

The showâÄôs biggest issue, however, was in its sweeping assumptions of the audience and emphasis on levity that results in a superficial treatment of the subject matter. The heteronormative elephant in the room trumpeted along to such winners as âÄúRemember: Boys will always be in your life,âÄù and âÄúIf you love âÄôem or you hate âÄôem, men are something we need.âÄù

Though it may be what Fenstad called a âÄúbig love letterâÄù to women, âÄúGirls OnlyâÄù seemed somewhat hung up on a cutesy, hands-on-hips finger wag at beer-guzzling husbands and a saccharine exasperation with tiresome domestic chores.

âÄúGirls Only: The Secret Comedy of WomenâÄù makes grand promises in its title, and while its intentions may be to provide a silly, lighthearted evening for women who are capable of identifying with the stories, humor and characters in the show, girls and women who canâÄôt see themselves in those who are supposedly their representatives and comrades will feel that something is missing.

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