"Perfect Women," the newest offering from the Theatre Conspiracy, is the same old feminist stuff but rather engagingly told. Playwright Barbara B. Goldman has a real feel for the sensitivities and sexual confusions of adolescence, and this softens the familiar political message about how society, even today, offers its young women a dearth of role models, etc.
Twelve-year-old Rosie (Mary Wilson) is so socially backward she still plays with her Barbie doll. She also has a confused crush on her best friend, Kate (Yasmin Tuazon), who has consigned her Barbies to Barbie Jail, where they languish in various states of mutilation.
Rosie is liked by a popular kid, Rick, who gives her a card with the Mona Lisa on it advising her to smile more often. In response to these various sexual pressures, Rosie engages in fantasies populated by her Barbie; Rox, a lesbian biker-chick who used to be Galatea in Ovid's myth about Pygmalion; and the Mona Lisa, who mostly just smiles and doesn't cause any trouble.
Director Karen Tecott keeps things moving and keeps them light, aided by the enthusiastic cast and a set design by Jennifer Stewart that includes, among other huge objects, a very appealing gigantic stuffed turtle.
Someone who was a kid during Barbie's first phase of hysterical popularity yet never owned or played with one--someone, that is, like me--may find Rosie's attachment to the doll puzzling all these decades later when popular attitudes about feminine style have shifted. Isn't it a little late to blame society? Why should Rosie be trapped by female images from the Pygmalion myth, Renaissance painting and Mattel in a world in which "Xena: Warrior Princess" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" exist? Perhaps her parents don't let her watch television.
Perfect Women, by Barbara B. Goldman. Directed by Karen Tecott. Lights, Elizabeth Crosbie; sound, Michelle DeCesare; costumes, Jessie Kellogg; props, Jennifer Maloney. With Eric C. Peterson. At the Theatre Conspiracy through Nov. 20. Call 202-462-7833.