Suffragettes in Action: A Review of CCM Actingâ€™s Production of Her Naked Skin
Review by Alan Jozwiak of Her Naked Skin: CCM Acting
Running in front of racing horses, breaking windows, forced feedings, and a love affair. These elements seem to be an unlikely combination to appear in the same play. But in the hands of Director Richard Hess and the CCM Acting students, they become the storyline of Her Naked Skin, a play by Rebecca Lenkiewicz recounting the early days of the British suffragette movement.
Inspired by the Midge Mackenize book on the suffragette movement Shoulder to Shoulder, Her Naked Skin begins with film footage of suffragette Emily Davison walking onto the track of the 1913 Derby just as the horses passed by. Hospitalized, she becomes the match to ignite several of her fellow British suffragettes to smash shop windows and get jailed for the destruction of property.
From there, the first half of the play tells the larger story of the suffragettes in prison, showing how the suffragettes suffered harsh conditions while incarcerated. The second half of the play deals with the relationship formed by highborn Celia Cain (Michaela Tropeano) and lowborn Eve Douglas (Julie Netzer), whose relationship in prison goes from a friendship spawned from peeling potatoes to a full-blown romance made difficult by external pressures experienced by both women.
Director Richard Hess does a good job moving his actors through the scenes, as well as in and out of the marvelous metal apparatus which is used to depict the prison of the suffragettes. This play has many scenes with many actors and Hess keeps them all in play, minimizing potential confusion.
The three main female roles were played to perfection. Michaela Tropeano plays a strong Celia Cain, who has to balance the expectations of her husband (played in a wonderfully understated way by Isaac Hickox-Young) with her desire to contribute to the movement. Cainâ€™s acting is sophisticated and regal, only hinting at the internal problems she faces underneath. By contrast, Julie Netzerâ€™s characterization of Eve Douglas shows a wonderful mix of brash earnestness and complete determination (Douglas is the one to throw the first hammer into the shop windows). She is believable as a young woman entering into a much larger world brought on by her relationship with Celia Cain.
The actress who played the elderly suffragette Florence Boorman (Mafer Del Real) was also a standout. Del Real plays Boorman as a tower of strength, being the senior suffragette who is on the hunger strike. She also bares all (literally) by going topless at one point when coming out of a mandatory shower. Brava for her willingness to go topless.
Also excellent were the work of Costume Designer Ashley Berg, who provides some outstanding period costumes from just before WWI, and Scenic Designer William Sawyer, whose metal apparatus (complete with retractable beds from the ceiling for the prisoners), beautifully encapsulates the prison experience for the women suffragettes. This play would not be as strong without these two elements.
Adding to these elements were the video components that happen throughout the play by Projections & Media Designer Whitney Glover. They were a perfect counterpoint to the action on the stage.
Overall, Her Naked Skin was an engaging viewpoint into the world of the British suffragette movement prior to World War I. With a cast of twenty-two actors playing more than that number of characters, this is a rare opportunity to see this play performed with a full cast.
For more information on tickets for this performance, contact the CCM Box Office 513-556-4183 or through their website CCM.uc.edu.