“Impenetrable” Presented by SIS at West of Lenin

If you think beauty is only skin deep, this play suggests you think again. It’s a hard biting examination of the negative fallout from the obsession with beauty that pervades our society. Where beauty is all, it’s impossible for any woman to live up to the concept of perfection that is demanded.

Smartly directed by Charles Waxberg, we see how this obsession impacts four females: a pre-teenager, her mother facing the changes in appearance wrought by age, a truly beautiful young med school student, and a chunky Starbucks manager. All are riddled with the inevitable insecurities the beauty quest engenders.

What propels the play’s action is a billboard featuring the med school beauty who had earlier modeled for a friend. There she is in all her exposed lusciousness, but arrows point to various parts of her body pointing out flaws that can be fixed at a local spa. She didn’t know her photo would wind up as a billboard and is horrified. That billboard is backdrop to the action and works wonderfully throughout the production as a statement about the issue.

The middle aged mother is angry. She’s going to fight this societal sickness. Her daughter and all in her generation should be allowed to live in a world where beauty doesn’t define a woman’s worth, and where the self-loathing and insecurity it engenders are gone. Her campaign to get rid of the billboard works—but with negative unanticipated consequences. Of interest is the fact that playwright Mia McCullough based this play on a true incident in Chicago’s suburbs.

The acting here is generally moving. Each actress fulfills her role as a symbol of one aspect of womanhood. Erwin Galan as the male spa proprietor who commissioned the billboard is especially compelling. He’s promulgating the beauty message, making his living on it, yet he’s just a nice man, filling a need, totally unaware of the issues and their impact.

The subject here is an important one, one that demands more attention than it usually receives. With that in mind, SIS encourages the audience to remain after the performance to discuss the topic with the cast.

I only wish that the play itself was a little less strident, a little less over-the-top with the revelations near its conclusion. Sometimes less is more. But it’s still a thought-provoking and worthwhile night at the theatre.

Through May 3, at West of Lenin, 203 N. 36th St., Fremont, Seattle, (206 323-9443 or brownpapertickets.com/event/589187)

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