The Broad Stage offers tonic to pandemic-exhausted women
By Bridgette M. Redman
If you can’t remember what it was like to enjoy an evening of live standup while sharing drinks at a table with your friends, The Broad Stage is ready to come to your rescue with a show that was filmed over three nights before the pandemic.
A 70-minute solo comedy cabaret piece featuring award-winning performer and writer Sandra Tsing Loh will stream on demand from June 23 through June 30. “The Bitch is Back” is a rollicking piece about menopause, middle age and mothering.
“As we re-enter this post-pandemic moment, watching this time capsule of the recent past reminds us of all the things we no longer take for granted, but look forward to having again,” Loh said. “We know the bitch will be back in more ways than we could have known then.”
The production is a mash-up of three of Loh’s live cabarets, experiences she referred to as “high-contact” because of the way she would interact with the audience. Written and performed by Loh, it was directed by Bart DeLorenzo and produced by Frier McCollister.
“It was in the round and laid out as a cabaret,” Loh said. “The audience was drinking and I was serving them wine — especially mothers if they looked tired. ‘Oh my god, you need a glass of wine!’ It was very informal and in your face, I even splashed wine on people. The audience is a character in the show and there is a lot of call and response.”
The filmed version that is available on demand shows the audience participation, a reminder of what we once had and may get to have again. The show includes such topics as what people really use Q-tips for, the great underground society of mothers who have to get stoned to go to Michaels, and Loh’s ritual for weighing herself (which involves two weeks of deep meditation and the exact correct arrangement of Tibetan prayer flags).
Loh also calls on her audience to shout out their shared, hidden knowledge.
“I’d call out, ‘On three in the cheap seats…which store has the best samples?’ One, two…and before I got to two, they all shouted, ‘Costco!’” Loh said.
Loh had been developing the show throughout 2014 as she did a tour for her book, “The Madwoman and the Volvo.” She eschewed the typical book tour events as “boring and staid” and instead did stops in women’s homes where they were drinking and having a good time.
Rather than read from her book, Loh started doing a comedy routine that grew into this show. She began doing it live, including a sold-out show at The Edye at The Broad Stage in 2015.
“There was the joy of having all these women there in gangs, if you will, and just laughing and having a few glasses of chardonnay and sometimes talking back, which is hilarious,” Loh said.
She said there were always some men who came along, usually as part of a couple and they would look nervous.
“We’d say, ‘We love you men, good for you for coming and you get sex this evening,’” Loh said. “’You get to get laid because your lady dragged you to a show about menopause.’ The men enjoy it because they see how crazy the women are and they get to see it from the inside. The women really do laugh, but the men do also.”
And while the on-demand show is from pre-pandemic days, The Broad Stage is offering two pandemic-style experiences for all ticket holders for “The Bitch is Back.” Loh will host two special “happy hours” celebrating women who are 45+.
The first features guest Marlo Thomas for “Women 45+ and Relationships” at 5 p.m. on Thursday, June 24. It will be what Loh describes as a casual group participation where Thomas will talk about what makes marriages work and her 45+ year marriage with Phil Donahue.
On Saturday, June 26 at 5 p.m., Loh will be joined by a group of actresses for a happy hour titled “Women 45+ and Theater: Thoughts on Wendy Wasserstein.” Her special guests are Caroline Aaron, Marilu Henner, Melanie Mayron and JoBeth Williams. It will be co-hosted by Chris Burney.
“These were actresses I would not have been able to get in normal times, but on Zoom, you can,” Loh said. “For me, the last time I saw a play on stage with women 60+ was Wasserstein.
They all had roots in that work, so we are going to talk about what that experience is and what Wasserstein would be writing today.”
Loh has another book coming out in paperback during the week of the show, “The Madwoman and the Roomba: My Year of Raging Hormones.”
If you tune in to social media, you’ll see Loh organizing women’s watch parties and offering such swag as goddess pants, “Madwoman” wine glasses, free books and specialty cocktails.
Loh hopes this streamed show will be one of the last of the cocktail couch pajama Zoom parties of the pandemic as things start to open up. She hails the women, especially mothers, who have been holding things together for their families throughout the past year and a half.
“I think the pandemic has been such a hard year for so many, both personally and culturally,” Loh said. “There have been so many really serious issues to deal with and tragic things happening. As we slowly open, it feels really great to laugh — to just laugh and relax. We’re going to have cocktail recipes that you can download, and just think of the small things and craziness of our lives. I hope it is a wonderful tonic to take a break and enjoy.”