Girls Only -- the Secret Comedy of Women: Just Like a Very Good Pajama Party

The set-up:

Two gifted female improv actors in Denver, Barbara Gehring and Linda Klein, discovered a golden lode of material in their high-school diaries, and mined it into scripted vignettes of what it's like to be young and female for Girls Only - the Secret Comedy of Women. The result is having its regional premiere here after extended runs in Denver, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh and other cities.

The execution:

The set is - you guessed it - pink, and frilly without being fussy, a lovely teenage bedroom cluttered with memorabilia, and including windows that can convert into screens for an occasional video. As the audience is seated, we see on stage two local female actors, Tracy Ahern and Keri Henson, and in pantomime they engage each other in conversations we know to be confidential from their reactions. It's clear they like and trust each other, and enjoy each other's company. And they laugh a lot, so we know they're good-natured. They are dressed in bra and panties, so we start to share their intimate moments before the play begins.

Both Ahern and Henson are excellent. They are gifted comediennes with great timing, expressive faces and a knack for pantomime. As the play progresses, they share diaries, valentines, including those returned, the awkwardness of a sexual education class, the first crush, the benefits of breast feeding, and other topics. The result is like being at a very good pajama party - or so I imagine, being male, and never having attended one. This comedy, as the title indicates, is intended for a female audience, but this may be too restrictive. First, these actors are babes, good-looking, fit, with great, out-going personalities, and a great sense-of-humor. Good sports, they tell jokes well, and they like men. What male wouldn't want to spend 90 minutes in their company? But I digress.

There are moments of audience participation, purses and totes borrowed from the audience, and these are amusing, though not the highlights of the event. I especially liked the skit about sex education, as the actors played counselors so inept that they never get to the subject; this satire was gentle but very relevant. The overall tone never strays very far from sweet and amusing, although there is a hint of anger in a video section on restrictions on public breast-feeding. The event ends with a ballet to music as the ladies struggle to don pantyhose - this is hilarious - you have to see it to appreciate it, and I recommend that you do.

The comedy is directed by Luanne Nunes de Char, and this is her seventh time directing the work. Her experience, talent and professionalism pay off brilliantly, as the pace flows seamlessly, carried by the exuberance and unflagging energy of the actors. She and the remarkable authors have created a world of joy and amusement - it is authentic and a pleasure to savor. While the producers feel Girls Only is not really a play, I beg to differ: creating a world of the imagination and inviting you to enter is what theater is all about.

The verdict:

Two gifted actresses capture the joys and travails of growing up female, in a series of amusing vignettes that will warm your heart while convulsing you with laughter. See it, you'll like it.

Girls Only - the Secret Comedy of Women has been extended through Sunday, December 2, at Main Street Theater, 4617 Montrose Blvd. For ticketing or information, call 713-524-6706 or contact the company website.

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