Stage review: CLO Cabaret's 'Girls Only' keeps the laughs coming


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Barbara Gehring and Linda Klein, who met as adults, decided one day, upon reading each other's girlhood diaries out loud, that they should have met as children.

Since they could not rewrite history, the two women did the next best thing. They used their diaries as the launching point for their two-woman show about women, for women.

In "Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women," appearing at the CLO Cabaret Downtown through Sept. 2, the two women promise to take their audience back to that "beautifully awkward time of being 12 years old." It's a fun trip that had me laughing for most of the show.

"Girls Only," which debuted in Denver in 2008, is not just the show's title. On the night I went, it appeared to be the rule for entry. That meant, of course, a wait for the ladies' room when we arrived.

'Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women'

Where: CLO Cabaret at the Cabaret at Theater Square, Downtown.

Who and when: With Barbara Gehring and Linda Klein through July 1; with Theo Allyn and Christine Laitta July 6-Sept. 2.

Tickets: $34.75-$44.75; pittsburghclo.org or 412-456-6666.

Inside the theater, groups of women -- ranging from about a decade removed from age 12 to at least five decades removed -- sat around tables of four, an ideal pre-show set-up for drinking wine, eating dessert and catching up with friends.

The show begins with Ms. Gehring's and Ms. Klein's take on one of the most formative events in a young girl's life, the sleep-over party. The set is a somewhat messy girl's room decorated with flowers and posters. The two women, wearing pink and purple bras and underwear, are lounging about, flipping through fashion magazines.

While the sleep-over parties of my youth focused mostly on nail polish, the latest pop music hit and doing each other's hair, the talk in "Girls Only" was about the way magazines create unrealistic expectations about body image.

Pretty advanced stuff, for a sleep-over.

The show may have grown out of the two women's real girlhood diaries -- which they read aloud during the show in one hilarious sketch -- but the perspective alternates between that of a girl and that of a woman. At times, the show seemed uncertain about its point of view.

Perhaps boys may think that girls attend slumber parties wearing just bras and underwear, but that was never my experience. And although I flipped through fashion magazines as a girl, it wasn't until adulthood that I pondered the unrealistic physical expectations they suggested.

The show -- just under two hours with an intermission and made up of 16 sketches that include some video, audio and puppetry -- pokes fun at the history of women, at breast-feeding, at wearing bras and pantyhose and at learning about puberty.

A few sketches provide Ms. Klein and Ms. Gehring an opportunity to flex the improv muscles they developed together as two-thirds of the Denver-based comedy trio A.C.E. The improv sketches usually involved audience participation, and one scene early in the show had me laughing to the point of tears. But then, I was not the audience member involved. Another, about other uses post-menopausal women can find for the feminine hygiene products they purchased but no longer need, brought shrieks of laughter from the audience.

There were a few moments during "Girls Only," especially when the women recounted memories from their childhoods, in which Ms. Klein and Ms. Gehring touched on more emotional and serious topics, many of them involving their mothers. But in the midst of mostly silly humor, those moments of gravity fell flat.

"Girls Only" is at its best when it is poking fun at the frequent hilarity and occasional agony that is girlhood growing into womanhood. It's easy fun. You'll laugh and bond with your friends, but unlike a slumber party, you won't feel tired the next day.

theaterreviews

Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707.


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