By Elizabeth Bacharach
Three women donning animal ears dance to music as the character Waldo from “Where’s Waldo?” slinks between them, attempting to keep rhythm as he approaches each woman from behind. Once in position, Waldo extends his hands to grope his target and is deterred by each startled actress who jumps away.
This scene is part of a series of skits in the four-woman comedy “I Think, Therefore I’m Sorry” at The Crowd Theater, 3955 N. Broadway. The show highlights the challenges that modern women still face, drawn from the experiences of the actresses. Their satire takes on overbearing mothers, ever-present sexism and a range of other nuances. The actresses also wrote the sketches.
Actress Cat Ring said the invasive dance floor episode was just one of the real-life experiences that the women spoof on stage. “ That sketch…was something that happened to me, just some random guy on Halloween dressed up as Waldo,” Ring said.
Chicago director Ben Palin said the comedy is “an unapologetic look at the lives of women living in 2016” that “discusses not only the issues they face but the nuances of dealing with the issues they face. As well as simply just exploring their experiences in general.”
“I Think, Therefore I’m Sorry” propels the conversation.
Although women no longer face rules on how to be a “good girl” versus a “bad girl”—one who would have sex before marriage—women are still subjected to “traditional male attitudes,” said historian and biographer Louise Knight.
“[The man’s] got the new social morays that sex is okay before marriage, everyone is agreeing with with that now. So he can put a lot more pressures on the girl who doesn’t want to have sex because she can’t say, ‘No, no, no – good girls don’t have sex before marriage.’ So what does she say?” said Knight, who is a visiting scholar at Northwestern University’s Gender and Sexuality Studies Program.
Cast member Katie Tyner noted that a modern woman is in a “lose-lose” position between delivering and receiving any kind of advancement. “You’re either a bitch or a prude,” Tyner said in an interview.
But Alice Eagly, a psychology professor at Northwestern University who specializes in social psychology, believes that there isn’t “any lose-lose here.” Instead, Eagly emphasized that “women have to do their part,” even if it’s difficult to respond to these acts of sexism or sexual advancements.
For the women of “I Think Therefore I’m Sorry,” their production functions as an opportunity for them to respond to gender-related experiences.
“It’s therapeutic,” said performer and writer Yasmine Baharloo. “It feels good to talk about ‘pussies’ all the time” in the show, especially through a medium like comedy, one area of “rampant sexism,” Baharloo said.
The opening skit satirizes one-night stands and strictly sexual relationships, an age-old bind that the cast suggests hasn’t change much.
The cast of “I Think, Therefore I’m Sorry” hopes their show will get audience members to “just listen,” Baharloo said.
Knight suggested ways performers could add to their impact on stage and make a change to these gender-related issues.
“My very first suggestion is that they have a discussion with the audience afterwards and they specifically say to the women in the audience, ‘How do you feel about these experiences in the play and do you feel we capture that in the play?’” Knight said. “The women in the audience should have a chance to say what they need to say.” She added, “Men too.”
Eagly said “collective group efforts” can be effective but that women have to be “willing to talk about it and come together” for such sessions to be successful.
The final production of “I Think, Therefore I’m Sorry” will be Thursday night at 8 pm at The Crowd Theater.