Laughter as the Avenue for Contemplation

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 A Preview for One Woman, Too Much

   “One Woman, Too Much” is a play written by Professor Ellen Margolis, Pacific’s Theatre & Dance Department Chair. The play has a lot going on, but the central message warns against taking on too much responsibility. Or, in the words of Professor Margolis: “‘One Woman, Too Much’ takes on the conflicting demands on women who work for a living and care for children,” explained 

   Margolis says her play is inspired by Carlo Goldoni’s 18th-century comedy “Servant of Two Masters,” which follows a starving servant who strives to ensure himself a semi-comfortable existence by serving two masters at once. Goldoni’s play touches on themes of conflict, indecision, inequity, and insurmountable obstacles. 

   “As soon as I started playing with this idea [of overextension],” explained Margolis, “I thought of Goldoni’s ‘Servant of Two Masters,’ which centers on a character who overextends himself just to make a living and get something to eat. It seemed like a great model for the over-extended heroine of my story.”

   While Margolis’s production follows a similar blueprint to Goldoni’s Servant of “Two Masters,” it overlays those with many contemporary social issues regarding sex, gender, and equality. Matthew Zrebski, a repeat guest director and collaborator for “One Woman, Too Much,” commented: “The play tackles incredibly relevant issues around gender, childcare, workplace equity, and the like – all set in the early 1980s… Huge struggles remain for those trying to work, raise families, afford childcare, and achieve balance. [These things] seem impossible for a huge swath of our population—and that is really infuriating.”

   Professor Tal Sanders of Pacific’s theater department echoed a sentiment similar to Zebski, but remarked that the play’s time period adds special significance. “What I find interesting about the play is that it is set in the mid-1980s but uses this period to show us that not enough has changed since that time to alleviate the issues in our workspaces that the play discusses. We have not moved enough legislation since that time to address equal advancement opportunities, pay, or healthcare shortages in a way that serves women fairly and equitably as compared to their male counterparts.” 

   Yet, despite the weighty nature of topics in “One Woman, Too Much,” the play is designed to be humorous. “(The) action [of the play] is presented in a highly comic, stylistic fashion, which allows for laughter to be the avenue for contemplation, hopefully long after the curtain falls,” points out Zrebski.

   Sanders adds: “This play uses humor to show that we as a nation have significant work to do, not just for the wage gap but in many areas of workplace fairness.” All told, the production is a balancing act; to present serious issues with a spoonful of sugar, and to present problems, but also solutions. 

   “I think the challenge for me in designing this production was to find a way to help show that the systems that have created the problems our characters are facing are of our own making and that they can be remade in a way that better serves us in today’s world,” stated Sanders.

   But Sanders found a creative solution. “I chose to represent the world of the play in the form of a construction-based toy from the 1980s called Tinkertoys,” said Sanders. “I hope that the metaphor of simple constructions that can easily be broken down and remade into something new will help us see that our employment problems can be as easily deconstructed and remade for all. It’s really just child’s play.” 

   “One Woman, Too Much” provokes laughter and deep thought. It plays at Tom Miles Theater on Thursday, March 14 – Saturday, March 16, 7:30 pm, Sunday, March 17, 2 pm.


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