Playwright Sheila Callaghan is known for taking on dark subject matters and twisting them so much that they’re simultaneously so strange that they’re familiar – a modern rendition of Brecht’s verfremdungseffekt. In We Are Not These Hands she’s created a dark dystopian society where Capitalist is a dirty word, violence is a mode of expression and sex is the main commodity. This could be a dark and depressing play, however Callaghan uses two teenage girls with youthful exuberance and optimism to brighten this dark world.
Moth (Cecily Glouchevich) and Belly (Emily James) spend most of their time sitting outside an internet cafe watching men look at porn when they spot Leather (so named because he carries a leather bag, a sign of his high economic status). “He’s a real mens!.” exclaims Belly. To which Moth replies, “Boys get you babies, mens get you homes.” They then set out to ensnare him, hoping he’ll take them back “across the river” to the land of prosperity. Leather (Albert Dayan), a manic mama’s boy whose words spin so rapidly in his head it seems his mouth has trouble keeping up, is there writing a “treatise” on economics. Yet, we quickly see that his “findings” are pure nonsense.
Callaghan has created a form of pidgin English with the girls, and once you get used to it, it highlights the economic disparities as well as the stunted thinking in these two young women. Director Larry Biederman makes excellent use of Rogue Machine’s Les Blancs set, adding cardboard “computers” for the internet cafe. He also crafts sharp performances from his cast and keeps the tone comic, preventing it from dragging on and becoming dreary. Dayan finds every nuance of the manic Leather, creating a hilarious and disturbing performance. Glouchevich and James bring both youthful naivete and hard life maturity to their roles. This is an excellent production of one of Callaghan’s more difficult plays.