DPA’s ‘The Pliant Girls’ showed the power and diversity of sisterhood
The enduring symbol of women all being ‘on the same boat’ is what makes playwright Meghan Brown still excited to work on her play years later, she said in a Q&A
First, there was the picking. Then, the courting. Then, the wedding. Then, the ending.
These four movements comprise “The Pliant Girls,” a play written by Meghan Brown based on Aeschylus’s play “The Suppliants.” Brown’s play is about 50 sisters living on an island who murder their arranged husbands-to-be on their wedding day. On Feb. 19 and 20, 12 American University students live-streamed a pre-recorded version of Brown’s play. “The Pliant Girls” was directed by Ameenah Kaplan, an actress and producer who was in the original Broadway cast of “Stomp,” and appeared on “The Office” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”
“The Pliant Girls” follows five of the 50 sisters — Courtney (Haleigh Diaz), Leta (Julia Mann), Philomena (Bekah Zornosa), Ariana (Claudia Combet) and Kay (Edmée Marie Faal) — after they learn that their father (Fiona Murphey) signed a contract with his first cousin, who had 50 sons, to have all his daughters married off by the time the first became of marrying age.
The sisters are then subjected to a “picking,” where the audiences see five of the 50 husbands — Marcus (Benedicte Hentsch), Alexander (Ruby Osborne), Kem (Daniella Ignacio), Dean (Nikki Scamuffo) and Claude (Natasha Sookrah) — choose their wives-to-be.
“The Pliant Girls” marks the fifth show of the 2020-21 season that the University’s Department of Performing Arts has staged virtually, behind “Overture 200222020,” “The Women,” “Miss You Like Hell” and the 2021 senior capstone. Though “The Pliant Girls” was intended to be performed live online, technical challenges forced the cast and crew to debut a recorded and edited version instead.
Kaplan noted during a Q&A that each of the actors was placed in a picture frame on the screen to emulate “Wonder Woman” comics. She mentioned how the premise of “The Pliant Girls,” sisters living on an island, echoed the Amazons in “Wonder Woman.”
With an all female-identifying cast, Kaplan also explained that she had the sisters wear white and the brothers wear black to distinguish who was who. In the virtual format, the performers also had to work within the confines of what they had in their closets.
In a play about the diversity of sisterhood, each member of the cast answered what sisterhood meant to them during a Q&A after the show on Feb. 19.
Many of the cast noted that sisterhood to them included supporting other women, holding them accountable and uplifting them. Others said it was an “undeniable bond.”
“I feel like for me, especially looking at this play, which is about the diversity of a female experience and a male experience, and this feeling of Courtney is not like Ariana, there are different types of women,” Brown said during the Q&A. “But, they're all on the same boat. I think that’s, to me, kind of the enduring symbol of this play that still makes me excited to be working on it years later.”
In closing the Q&A, Kaplan thanked her “sisters” in reference to the cast and crew on the call.
“I'm a stone cold tomboy, sporty running around, but I have always had very, very strong relationships with the women around me and have always wanted to cultivate that,” Kaplan said. “The sisterhood has always been strong with me. It always will be strong with me. And I hope it will always be strong with you because this is a sisterhood right here.”