Nasty Woman, produced by Good Company and playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival, offers a moving personal journey wrapped in a package that is much less political than the show’s title suggests. I’m of two minds about this play. For me, this show is at its strongest when one-woman performer Kathryn Landon is telling stories about her life; her discussion of the 2016 US election is, in my opinion, less successful.
It will come as no surprise that Nasty Woman has something to say about the 2016 American election. Landon opens the show by describing her feelings of betrayal at Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton, emphasizing Clinton’s superior qualifications and that women face sexist and unreasonable double standards in every area of our lives.
An important message, but an overly familiar one. I wish Landon had added something — anything — fresh or unexpected to that first section, instead of simply preaching to the choir. Although it’s a generalization, I’d say that an audience who attends a play called “Nasty Woman” is likely to be familiar with the aspects of the election that Landon describes.
I was also disappointed that Nasty Woman‘s feminism was not intersectional; race, for instance, never once entered the conversation. My guess is that Landon intended to remain within her own perspective as a white woman. However, the lack of intersectionality in such a relevant political topic came off to me as a disappointing, and even naive, omission.
When Landon moved away from the election and began to tell stories from her own life, however, my sense of the play changed entirely. She evoked people from her childhood in a way that truly brought them to life, and I loved hearing her stories about growing up as a woman in the 60s and 70s. The story about female schoolteachers going on strike for the right to wear pants was a particular highlight.
In the latter half of Nasty Woman, Landon brought us fearlessly into very dark corners of her life, including stories of poverty, substance abuse, and sexual assault. When she described the death of her partner, many people around me were wiping their eyes. Throughout the later portion of the show, I was amazed by Landon’s courage and vulnerability.
The ultimate message of Nasty Woman is to “take some chances” because “life is short.” A good message, made all the more powerful by Landon’s highly moving personal story. I wonder whether this play might benefit from being reframed as an autobiographical journey, emphasizing love and loss, rather than the political play the title suggests. I wish I had been able to give it a wholeheartedly enthusiastic review.
- Nasty Woman plays at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace. (16 Ryerson Ave.)
- Tickets are $12. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Scadding Court, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible, with some tight cornering. Accessible seating is in the front row.
- Friday July 7th, 03:00 pm
- Saturday July 8th, 08:30 pm
- Sunday July 9th, 01:00 pm
- Monday July 10th, 11:00 pm
- Tuesday July 11th, 05:00 pm
- Friday July 14th, 05:15 pm
- Saturday July 15th, 04:30 pm
- Sunday July 16th, 04:00 pm
Image provided by the company