The Girls Inside Bodega

Remaining Performances: Jul 19th 12 pm Jul 25th 3:15 pm

They say: You didn’t even know we existed. But now? Now. You do. A new play that tells the spirited stories of four ‘juvie’ girls living on the inside

Suzyn’s take: “The Girls Inside,” Leayne C. Freeman’s new play about teenage girls in juvie, is memorable and exciting from the first moments as the four girls run around in darkness with flashlights, soon getting caught by the police.  The much-maligned Bodega, with its stifling heat and peeling paint, is the perfect venue.

This is not so much a play as a 45-minute slam poem, and the directing—-the best I’ve seen at the Fringe Festival this year—-is more like choreography.   There are snippets about the girls’ lives; one girl deals with the drug-addicted mother she adores, another was essentially made to sign adoption papers that she couldn’t read.  But mostly there is a sort of anonymity to the characters that the girls play, which allows lines like “The world didn’t want us the first time, so why would it change its mind if we got out?” to speak for everyone.

Jo Higbee brings a bit of dark humor in imitating the adults the girls must deal with.  Her performance is particularly adroit in that she doesn’t seem to be playing the adults so much as playing what the adults look like to the girls.

Perhaps the most haunting moments are the bits of girlish glee and teenage innocence woven throughout the piece.  As much as these girls seem like hardened criminals, when they laugh, they are teenage girls again, particularly Adena Goode, who at times seems hardened and innocent simultaneously.  At one point they form a chorus of wishes and desires: they want a new trial, they want a do-over, they want their mothers, they want a new iPod, they want to go to prom.   When Ayena Hardy’s character talks about losing her virginity in the eighth grade and how it made her feel beautiful, there is a sad sweetness to her performance that is almost unbearable. Several members of the audience cried. Zurin Villanova has a beautiful voice and a real gift for movement.  When she pantomimes getting a cavity search from an invisible person, it’s impossible not to squirm.  Yet she imbues her character with a deep sense of hope.

This is a brilliant show.

See it if:   You want a vivid, emotional, memorable experience and are willing to go through hell with these girls to get it.

Skip it if:  You need a storyline to really get into a play.   There are only characters in the loosest sense and in many ways this show is far more about evoking a sense of place than about the development of characters or the movement of a plot.