Serving up fierceness, talent and glamorous fashion to match — Little Theatre’s latest creation, “The Lunch Girls” by Leigh Curran, delivers as pleasing of a vintage aesthetic as it does relevant commentary on hard-working women in a fast-paced and chauvinistic environment.
Set in Manhattan in 1969, “The Lunch Girls” depicts a glimpse into a workday for six waitresses, a cigarette girl, an audacious chef, a cheeky busboy and an alcoholic sous-chef in a Key Club, as they navigate their relations — often strained — with one another, their customers and their inner selves. Dealing with the turbulence within their own lives while simultaneously having to balance (often literally) their tasks on the job, the play explores the concepts of sisterhood, misogyny and many more that remain as relevant as they were when it was first penned and performed.
“Each girl has their own turmoil that they’re dealing with when they come into work that day,” explained senior Claire Bingaman, the show’s director and Little Theatre’s president. “For some, it’s a crescendo while others add to that crescendo of their hardworking day. It all comes together eventually, but it just kind of presents a glimpse into the chaos of these girls’ lives and explores the lack of respect they get from each other as well as the people in the restaurant, and how they work through that.”
Bingaman mused on the aspects of the show that enticed her to direct, many of which have to deal with the underlying themes of “The Lunch Girls” that remain utterly pertinent to our modern society.
“One of the things that drew me to the show is the fact that all of the times where the show could be about men, it’s not,” Bingaman stated. “For example, it takes place in two different settings: their locker room and the kitchen. In the kitchen, we see just a tiny ounce of how they’re treated around misogynistic men who objectify them. We don’t get to see the people they work for or the men they’re in love with; we get their descriptions and their feelings and I think it’s so telling that we don’t see the dining room full of men. Instead, we see these girls working for them but also working for themselves. And I think that’s still a factor now — there’s so much repression on women being seen as people and I think this show, even though it takes place back then, beautifully encapsulates feelings we all experience now.”
Bingaman has been involved with Little Theatre since her freshman year, mostly performing onstage in addition to serving her second year as the club’s president. She was able to utilize the immense knowledge she brings to the club as an actress in order to execute her vision for the show as its director, as well as providing a passionate and enjoyable experience for her cast.
“I took two method acting classes that literally changed my life as an actress, but I don’t try to fully force that onto people because I do think that method acting is a fine line,” Bingaman said. “I think that’s something I bring to the table, but I didn’t fully serve it as a buffet — moreso as an appetizer of method acting along with an appetizer of character-building. I tried to facilitate things I typically take time to do outside of rehearsals as an actress into my approach to directing, because the process was going so well that we had time to dedicate towards doing so.”
In spearheading a show that relies so heavily on its characters and the dynamics they have with each other, Bingaman felt it was crucial to ensure both facets were as authentic and viable as they could be.
“For one, I wanted to make sure I got as much of my thoughts of what the characters were as what the actors thought their characters were,” Bingaman admitted. “I tried to have more open conversations about them, and we even had character study days. I wanted people to put a little bit of themselves in their characters because I actually think that’s when they become most authentic and most beautiful. I know for myself, as an actress, if I can physically feel what my character is feeling and genuinely believe it, it’s a beautiful thing. I wanted to make sure of that throughout the rehearsal process of us focusing on characters; moreso regarding what they say and feel and less so their physicality because I think that comes naturally once you feel it.”
Balancing the way a character feels towards another character or situation with the way the actor feels themself is undeniably challenging, though Bingaman’s wonderful guidance was undoubtedly crucial in maintaining a healthy and gratifying exploration of the two.
The set’s alteration between the women’s locker room, the club’s kitchen, and back to the locker room requires all hands on deck for the cast and crew to dismantle and reassemble twice over in a timely manner. Thus, in addition to navigating their characters, the cast received plenty of excellent opportunities to establish the magic of the show that relies heavily on their comfortability around and appreciation of one another.
“I have loved getting to know the new friends in this cast, and of course it is always wonderful to see my old friends, too!” said junior Lydia Sulaiman, one of “The Lunch Girls’” waitresses and Little Theatre’s secretary. “Having my girlfriend in the cast with me is also a really fun experience for us to share together.”
Sulaiman has been involved with every Little Theatre show since her debut production during her freshman year, though there’s no denying that she was able to bring a fresh addition to her repertoire of characters in the midst of connecting with her particular role so deeply.
“I play Kate, a 24-year-old aspiring actress who is seen as the “funny girl” but wants to make her voice heard,” Sulaiman explained. “I do relate to the way Kate sometimes feels like there is so much information that others don’t tell her and just expect her to figure out, and the way she is often not taken seriously because she is seen as the comedic relief.”
“The Lunch Girls’” director, cast and crew have worked diligently to ensure the production will be a recipe for success — pun intended — and they’d love for you to take a glimpse into their world of locker-room revelations and lunchtime rushes.
You can experience “The Lunch Girls” through a Zoom webinar livestream link tonight and Saturday night at 8 p.m. Contact Little Theatre via email at email@example.com or their social media for the password to join! A pre-filmed version of the play will also be available the following weekend.