Salvage Vanguard is one of the most adventurous and original companies in town, winning awards left and right in the process. With their latest, a bold, unique experience written by Adrienne Dawes, we’re introduced to a sextet of sister-wives in a locked-down bunker, all serving one husband. It’s a bit of high farce, with plenty of humor, but underneath it all there’s a certain spark of feminist spirit, a sense of sorority amongst all the oppression.
By heightening the ridiculous elements of the play’s situations, writer Adrienne Dawes is able to highlight the horror, and the underlying violation of women’s rights. It’s a powerful statement, and one that could be a tough pill to swallow if delivered outright, but Dawes is smart enough to entwine her message with humor and moments of surreality. The story is full of remarkable world-building, while also providing us with humorous characters, particularly its lead, and is bursting with originality. It serves as the perfect springboard for Salvage Vanguard to create their wild, ferocious, and hilarious feminist farce.
Under the wrong leadership, a production of this script would be disastrous, but luckily directors Florinda Bryant and Jenny Larson bring together a stunning cast, with a ride range of ages, to breathe life into these characters. Though a solid unit, each provides something quite different to the table, be it a youthful awkward innocence, a world-weary defeatedness, or even a rebellious spirit. The standout amongst the cast for the most play, however, is Cyndi Williams as Wife 1, who’s brassy resolve is always undercut with a certain sense of sorrow, the kind of sorrow that only comes from a life of servitude, as Wife 1 has. It’s a complexity that’s remarkable to behold, especially in the later stages of the play, when pieces begin to unravel.
Near the middle of the play, Jenny Larson explodes on to the scene with a a-bomb of ferocious energy as Wife 6. Armed with booze and Bikini Kill, Larson’s Wife 6 breaks the status quo, providing a much needed injection of unbridled energy into to the calm proceedings. It’s delightful to watch Larson’s character beat so hard against her more straight-laced co-characters, especially that of the ever-maternal Wife 1. She also shows blistering chemistry with Judd Farris, the sole male performer for much of the play, with her raw libido playing the perfect counterbalance to his sunny innocence.
With “Denim Doves”, Adrienne Dawes has created a strong feminist statement, while also delivering solid entertainment. It never feels preachy, even provides some of the biggest laughs I’ve had in some time, while still delivering its messages loudly and proudly (after all, it ends with a group women literally gearing up to fight the patriarchy) The directors take the piece and lead their actors to create a lively, meaningful, and in the end, powerful production. If this is indeed one of Salvage Vanguard’s last pieces in their original space, one can say they at least went out with a bang.
“Denim Doves” is playing through February 13th at Salvage Vanguard Theatre. Please note that this play does contain mature themes and full frontal nudity. For more information, and to purchase tickets, visit Salvage Vanguard’s website at salvagevanguard.org.