Friday, June 30 & Saturday, June 1

Sonorous Road Theatre, Raleigh

In the earliest hours of the 2017 Women’s Theatre Festival, it was already apparent that script selection and production choices had been upgraded after last year’s inaugural run. For one, the festival redefined Occupy the Stage, previously a continuous twenty-four-hour showcase of staged readings, as two identical programs staged twelve hours apart, giving us the chance to see more of them. And many were well worth seeingprofessional-quality scripts worthy of full productions. In light of Space Girl‘s graduation to the main stage after its Occupy reading last year, here are several shows from this year’s lineup we’d like to see again:

Shut Up, I’m On A Diet!: Under Lorelei Lemon’s direction, playwright Catherine Weingarten’s irreverent, cinematic farce seemed like a feminist twist on Wes Anderson. Conniving but charming California teen Tess (Anna Broadway) is driven to a sketchy eating-disorder clinic by her equally sketchy dad (a convincing Allan Maule). The deft social satire hits its bull’s-eyestrendy tech and pop psychologyas Tess manipulates a clueless intern (a rewarding Matthew Tucker) and her straitlaced roomie (a believable Rosemary Takacs).

He/She and Me: Janet Boudreau’s warm, affecting one-woman show, written by Sharon Mathis and directed by Carolyn German, follows a character named Pat through prismatic changes as her longtime husband, Sam, undergoes a gender transition.

_____ Is a Rapist: Rebekah Boroughs and Lindsay Carpenter’s absolutely remarkable script lets us approach two sexual assaultsone in the present, the other the historical tale of outdoor pioneer Emma Gatewoodwith something totally unexpected: hope. Sensitive direction by Savannah Core and nuanced, authentic performances by Molly Winstead and Judy McCord clinch it. This must be staged again.