The girl talk in Theresa Rebeck’s play from the mid-nineties pre-dates anything on “Sex and the City.” The four women depicted here are neither slick nor urbane, but they fall into the same familiar categories: The slutty one, the prim one, the reliable one and the one I shall call Carrie. Rebeck’s gals are less ambitious and status conscious—they are friends and roommates by virtue of cheap rent and a lacking desire to “get a real job,” a phase they refuse to outgrow even at thirty. The setup might seem facile, but I fell for it hard, and the Bailiwick production (a slumber party directed with verve by Victoria Delorio) is one of the better shows I’ve seen in the theater’s studio space. (It boasts an actual, legitimate set by Alan Donahue, and if you’re familiar with this particular space, you know scenic design is a rarity.) It’s Sunday morning and Elly is on the back porch with a bottle of scotch and commitment to emptying it. Soon she is joined by Gayle. Then Jen. The fourth member of the group, Jessica, is at church—and she would not, the girls all agree, approve of Elly’s soapboxing on the “long and honored tradition of getting bombed on Sunday morning.” This is getting bombed with a purpose: Elly is preggers, and diving headfirst into a drunken binge seems like the only recourse at the moment. Out come the long-harbored secrets and resentments, amid the dirty stories and other staples of the genre; the pajama monologues. “God,” says Gayle at one point, “Hitler is such a conversation-stopper.” Or Elly, speaking to the embryo in her belly: “How’s it going in there? You passed out yet?” Things come to a head when Jessica arrives home to find the mini sorority party raging in her carefully arranged, wicker-filled house. Women can be sisterly and then turn on each other with staggering speed, and that’s reflected here. Sienna Harris’s Elly is part Daria, part free spirit. Frequently, hoping to get a laugh for her efforts, she will rub herself against Gayle, like a dog, or a lap dancer. It’s an actorly choice that makes Elly seem very specific and fully dimensional. As Gayle, Rebekah Walendzak is also quite good, putting a matter-of-fact spin on her story about having sex with a guy for money. Her blasé demeanor is obviously a façade. The sex-loving Jen, as played by Audrey Fiegel, might be the weakest link ensemble-wise, but she is believably naive. And though Sarah Denison has the smallest part as the wet blanket Jessica, she pushes the role beyond its stereotypical parameters. You can see a real person behind all her rules and self-imposed limitations, which is more than you can say for “Cashmere Mafia.” (Nina Metz)
At the Bailiwick Arts Center, 1229 W. Belmont, (773)883-1090. This production is now closed.