Bartell Theaters' performance of ‘The Secretaries’ boasts a unique and hilarious critique of gender roles in the workplace.
“The Secretaries” tells the story of five secretaries who are prone to odd habits, such as a strange hissing and ticking language they use to speak to one another. Newly hired secretary Patty, though excited for her new career, is quickly suspicious of the bizarre behavior of her fellow secretaries. Not long after, she discovers that her coworkers are prone to killing one male colleague a month.
The show was produced by Madison’s StageQ, a queer theater group that strives to promote visibility and inclusivity on the stage. The organization prides itself in showcasing queer art.
The show is odd to say the least, mainly due to its main characters’ unusual customs. However, it finds its rhythm in its implorement of dark comedy and satire.
“The show is special to me because of how female rage is expressed in a dark comedic way. We often don’t see plays that dare to be this bold while still engaging the audience,” said Maya Buffamonte, who played murderous secretary Ashley.
“The Secretaries” coins itself as a social commentary on patriarchy and the constraints of femininity. It tackles subjects like diet culture, sexual harassment and the competition between women as a result of male domination.
Additionally, the show is filled with multiple sapphic relationships and loads of LGBTQ+ representation.
“For now, we embrace our f-ggotry, continue these discussions of rebellion, educate ourselves, and just as our ancestors valued the weapons of self-expression, we will never stop making queer art,” said Beck Keller, the show’s director, in their director’s note.
Although the show is obviously not condoning the murder of men to empower women, it serves as a hyperbolic expression of gendered experiences. It’s both ridiculous and amusing simultaneously, with just the right amount of macabre to keep any audience's attention.