Prerogatives: Contemporary Plays by Women


223 pages
ISBN 0-921368-69-0
DDC C812'.5408'09287




Edited by Ann Wilson
Reviewed by Shannon Hengen

Shannon Hengen is an associate professor of English at Laurentian
University and the author of Margaret Atwood’s Power: Mirrors,
Reflections and Images in Select Fiction and Poetry.


This anthology of plays by women explores the conflict between women’s
expectations and the realities that confront them. Although often funny,
the plays are essentially tragic.

Marie Clement’s Now Look What You Made Me Do juxtaposes prostitution
and wife battering with female commiseration. Men, too, show pain here,
but that pain is inflicted not on themselves but on women, who for their
part seem powerless. In Vivienne Laxdal’s Cyber:\womb, an infertile
woman tries to claim power by constructing a cyberwomb, and her attempt
only further isolates her. Two lines from this play perhaps summarize
the brightest moments in all of them: “You are a woman. You can
imagine how it feels.” Women’s imagining other women’s lives
represents the antidote to the isolation that these figures
experience—an isolation that stems either from abject powerlessness or
from heroic but failed attempts at gaining power.

In Toby Rodin’s The Slow Eviction of Ruby Rosenholtz, two derelict
women friends are made to part as a result of the sinister workings of a
male hotel proprietor who, perhaps like the prevailing social order
itself, seems threatened by close and potentially empowering bonds
between women. Kelly Jo Burke’s Charming and Rose: True Love rewrites
the romantic fairy tale by having the princess kill her prince in order
to save their child and avenge the murder of the princess’s mother (in
this tale, a wolf). In Kate Mile’s I Hate You on Mondays, the
protagonist inflicts physical abuse on herself to assuage the guilt she
feels about her aimless, friendless life.

In these plays, constraint and injustice are lightened with humor and,
above all, intimacy with other women. A heaviness pervades nevertheless.


“Prerogatives: Contemporary Plays by Women,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 14, 2024,