Blow Job

UC Irvines The Day Maggie Blew Off Her Head

Fucking Barbie. For years, she has filled little girls' heads with impossible standards of beauty, fueling negative body images and wild fantasies of winning the Miss America pageant. How come we never see the darker side: the obsessive dieting, the booze- and pill-fueled depressions, Ken's emotional neglect? UC Irvine directing student Teresa Pond's thesis production of Amy Bridges' The Day Maggie Blew Off Her Head deals with some of these issues—but with people, instead of dolls, though sometimes it's kind of hard to tell.

Things get off to a compelling start. After an offstage gunshot, a young woman enters sporting a dazed look and a sash that reads "I Lost." Maggie (Mandy Schmieder) the play's titular Everywoman, has just eaten the barrel of a rifle after a drunken binge in a seedy motel room. Unfortunately for Maggie (and the audience, it will soon turn out), her suffering does not end there. She has gone down the proverbial rabbit hole into an Alice in Wonderland-inspired afterlife where she is judged for the sins of her wasted life. If found guilty, the penalty is eternal damnation. And it just gets worse from there.

Playwright Bridges wouldn't know subtlety if you wrote the word on a brick and hit her in the face with it. Since Maggie spent most of her life struggling with her weight, she sits astride a Stairmaster in this afterlife. Likewise, all men are cheating bastards who make women get bikini waxes and wear thong underwear, and all mothers are bitterly disappointed homemakers quietly taking out their accumulated frustrations on innocent daughters.

Brevity seems an equally alien concept. Nearly every scene runs twice as long as it needs to, leaving us wishing, even more fervently than Maggie, for the sweet release of permanent extinction. Worse, despite some good performances, the overall production suffers from a tone of smug complacency. The staggeringly muddled staging and blatant upstaging by the actors suggest that Pond was too busy making a Very Important Statement to be bothered with directing a good show. Which is too damn bad: the crushing mixed messages women receive in this society is an issue worthy of the kind of nuanced, thoughtful consideration a good play could give. Unfortunately, this play ain't it.

The Day Maggie Blew Off Her Head at UC Irvine's Stage 2, W. Peltason & Mesa Road, Irvine, (949) 824-2787. Thurs.-Fri., Feb. 6-7, 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m. $8-$10.

 
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