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Review: Low Level Panic at KXT On Broadway

Review by Andrea Bunjamin

When we think about the short list of places where most of us can be vulnerable and have those existential crises in our lives…..a bathroom seems to perfectly fit the bill. 

The setting of this play written by Claire McIntyre follows three women as they navigate our all too familiar patriarchal world. From the objectification of women to the themes of power and body image, this dark comedy directed by Maike Strichow doesn’t shy away from the experiences of living under the male gaze. Making their Sydney debut, HER Productions’s co-founders take the stage playing Jo (Charlotte De Wit) and Mary (Marigold Pazar). They are accompanied by the hilarious Celia (Megan Kennedy) whose tight confidence about herself and gestures adds a great mix with the two leads.

The decision to shift the setting to the 1990’s creates a provoking reflection on how the play’s dialogue on themes like body image can be viewed in our current times. Where demeaning questions such as, ‘What were you wearing?’, brings a different kind of infliction that feels unacceptable today. The play’s ‘slice of life’ reminds us that when we live in a reality filled with suffocating misogyny, every woman knows what it's like to swallow their screams.

If there’s one thing that anyone should take after watching this show is that the emotionality of these characters are not subtle – not the slightest. Each woman is laying themselves bare in every scene, and as the audience we’ve become privy to their innermost thoughts. 

Taking advantage of the theatre’s seating layout, the audience gets to witness these intimate interactions from both sides of the stage, giving us the actual vantage point of the bathroom walls. From their fantasies and casual sex jokes to the honesty of their inner turmoils, the messiness in the lines delivered between De Wit and Pazar paints a picture of what their character’s everyday realities are like. Which eventually sets us up to the unsettling moments that they experience, such as the themes referring to sexual assault and gender discrimination. Kennedy’s main role in playing the comedic relief feels like a calming presence that we can rely on to bring us back in from those weightier scenes (even during a momentary break in character). 

With that being said, the lack of subtlety does have some drawbacks specifically in how the characters voice their wants in the plot. There are several moments where it felt like I was simply told what each of their personal issues were instead of it being shown to us. The script’s dialogue at times also felt like it was missing that back-and-forth affect that builds up over a conversation. Which inevitably impacts the way we may understand each woman’s insecurities, and how they think they should overcome it – such as Mary’s anxiousness about going to a party or Jo’s need to be desired by men. Additionally, part of me wishes that the story had focused on all three of their perspectives evenly and had included more character background.

In Low Level Panic, scenes transition into monologues. A shift in atmosphere focuses on a character as they recount a memory or a thought. They break the fourth wall, and sometimes we venture out of the confines of that bathroom as a way for Jo and Mary to explain their beliefs. And afterwards, this form of ‘breaking the bubble’ may have caused a loss of momentum half way through the play. 

Performing stories about the mundane doesn't necessarily involve having traditional character arcs or a predictable plot trajectory. Presenting reality, especially a bleak one, sometimes means the absence of overdramatising aspects of life. However, every perspective still needs a driving force. And despite the frustrations of society, we hope to be able to walk away still rooting for the women we briefly meet.

Image Credit: Georgia Jane Griffiths


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