Bombs In The Ladies Room
Chicago Sun-Times, August 12,
Gay Chicago Magazine, August 14, 1997
Chicago Reader, August 8, 1997 (preview)
Chicago Sun-Times, August
The two-year-old Thirteenth Tribe, serious
proponents of site-specific theatre, has ignited a firestorm
of paradoxes and provocations in Bombs in the Ladies Room,
written and performed by company member Megan Rodgers.
Set in the claustrophobic basement of Wicker
Park’s Yello Gallery, this multimedia work explores
the theme of political repression as Rodgers portrays a series
of women imprisoned for varying degrees of terrorist activities.
Bombs in the Ladies Room deliberately fosters
sensory deprivation while unleashing a barrage of uncomfortable
stimulation. Fluorescent-light visuals and “curtains” of
dangling electrical cords (co-designed by Joanna Settle and
Malcolm Nicholls) confound our sense of time and place. A
large screen–which projects key words, dialogue and
headings such as “sex as a weapon”–acts
as a silent interrogator, subliminally seeping into the audience’s
Over the duration of the 40-minute show, viewers
experience a subtle kind of mental-physical manipulation.
The work’s brevity makes the viewer want to get to
know these women better. But on another level of deprivation,
Rodgers forces the audience to go away unfulfilled. Injustice
persists. She indirectly asks us to go out and learn more
about human rights violations on our own.
Bombs in the Ladies Room centers on women (including
Muslim, German, Italian, Irish and American) found guilty
of crimes ranging from murder to treason. They are being
held in experimental high-security prisons, with the goal
of psychologically forcing them to renounce their political
beliefs. Many were fighting for the greater good: to end
repression by destroying their bloody repressors. The play
asks: When can violence be justified?
Rodgers, who studied international politics at the University
of Bologna and Mount Holyoke College, based this deeply perceptive
and at times wittily irreverent show on actual prisoner accounts.
In confinement, even the act of thinking is
regarded as subversive. A commanding performer with an air
of crumbling defiance, Rodgers embodies the complex individuality
of these characters. Her poetry (“You have buried me
in a tomb of silence and white”) touches the soul,
while we endure her pain within a stifling atmosphere that
vacillates between flickering bright lights and total darkness.
Director Joanna Settle keeps the action clean,
crisp, and effectively ambiguous. As one of Rodgers’ characters
observes, “If you stare at white long enough, you start
to see black.” Bombs in the Ladies Room is a montage
of fragments and twisted debris that reflect the state of
justice in a world ruled by violence.
- Lucia Mauro -
Gay Chicago Magazine, August 14, 1997
As you walk down the narrow stairway into the
basement of the Yello Gallery, you are immediately drawn
into an environment that is as much haunting as it is alluring.
Malcolm Nicholls’ richly layered sound design of angelic
inspired music with sirens and the text of a woman describing
her training experience in handling explosives surrounds
you. Coupled with the stark, all-white room, you know that
you’re in for a intriguing evening.
Onstage a young, blond woman sits in a setting
of white screened frames, broken glass panes and a row of
extension chords that hang from the ceiling – stylistic
and sterile. Projected on the back wall a message – “How
Small a Thought It Takes To Fill a Whole Life.” The
woman resembles a trapped animal who sits waiting. . . and
waiting. . . and waiting. There is no sense of urgency. No
sense of doom. Only the feeling of someone with too much
time on her hands. It’s an appropriate introduction
to Megan Rodgers and Joanna Settle’s site-specific
theatrical piece about women terrorists: their crimes and
our judgment of them.
Rodgers and Settle make a lofty premise touchable.
They introduce us to five women imprisoned for their involvement
with radical organizations.
The framework of the piece blends monologue,
projections, and multi-dimensional sound with varying degrees
of man-made lighting. Settle choreographs the elements with
a sharp precision. She ignites the work into action and sensation
with her acute attention to the language, the visual and
the detail. Handled, of course, with a artistic flair.
Without ever leaving the stage, Rodgers never
breaks a step as she moves from one character tot he next.
With a simple change of movement, of inspiration, of thought,
she encompasses the entire should of each of the women she
- Tim Sauers -
Reader, August 8, 1997
Bombs In The Ladies