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The Day Maggie Blew Off Her Head Playwright: Amy Bridges
by Mary Shen Barnidge
2001-07-25

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Maggie Lockesly is fat. Or so everybody keeps telling her. Actually, she weighs 155 pounds...which, while not quite willowy, is still far from obese. Nevertheless, her classmates find it sufficient to justify their scorn. Her dominating mother likewise considers her a candidate for preventative maintenance, feeding her on boiled eggs, grapefruit and warnings to mistrust men. Despite this negativity, however, Maggie dreams of someday becoming Miss America, but instead marries Jim Brickman, has children, and attends a "nutritional lifestyles" support group, with whose encouragement she finally achieves her ideal weight. Accompanying this triumph, however, is the realization of what she has sacrificed in pursuit of this specious goal. Dressed in a lanyard proclaiming, "I Lost" ( as in "I lost weight" ) , she checks into a motel, where she proceeds to blow her brains out with a shotgun.

In her criticism of the skewed priorities inflicted on women by an intolerant society, author Amy Bridges makes use of Brechtian title cards, slide and video projections and other agitprop/guerrilla theater motifs. Maggie's Everywoman-tale of martyrdom is presented in a series of flashbacks mandated by her celestial judges ( characterized as three Brit-twit chorus boys ) . These incorporate commentary by her family members, her peers, obstetric nurses, her husband, the go-go dancer with whom he seeks solace, and other assorted incidental personnel. As well as spoofs of sex-education classes, self-help groups ( in this case, a club calling itself "Waist Watchers" and carefully banning the word "diet" from its canon ) , the cult of Mirabel Morgan's "Total Woman," automation ( in the form of an electronic feel-good therapist that dispenses superficial advice ) , beat poets, lawyers and television commercials.

Running at over two hours ( in Victory Gardens' decidedly warm second-floor studio ) , The Day Maggie Blew Off Her Head could stand some trimming: a childbirth scene wastes time in standard operating-room slapstick, Maggie's dialogue with her mirror-image meanders to no seeming purpose, and Dr. Suess parodies ceased being clever decades ago. But Heather MacDermott lends dignity to a heroine more acted upon than active, while Mike Thornton mounts a fair case for hubby Jim and Serendipity Theatre Company's 11-member ensemble, under Ross Shirley's direction, acquit themselves in their 33 roles with unflagging energy.

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