by Rebecca Rudnyk
Unmentionables is a new work written by Molly Greville and developed at Boston University in collaboration with Kirsten Greenidge, the award winning playwright of Milk Like Sugar. It premiered in 2018 at the Boston Fringe Fest, and was recently brought to Arizona, thanks to a collaboration with Space 55 in Phoenix. The production team is comprised of recent Boston University BFA graduates, almost all female, and all incredibly talented. Annie Brennan Coursey directs, and Sophie Gore is both Stage Manager and Intimacy Director.
Shannon (Mackenzie Cala) and Claudia (Willa Eigo) are best friends and roommates, living in Washington Heights. Recent college graduates, they are entering adulthood with dramatically different approaches. Shannon sits comfortably at the bottom of the corporate ladder with hopes of climbing, fostering dreams of meeting the perfect man and building a life with him. Claudia sells her dirty underwear on the internet, and gets paid for sex. Upon discovering the wealth and success of a former classmate, Claudia resets her trajectory, determined to get a ‘real’ job. Then Shannon’s perfect man Tom (Kalei Devilly) literally falls onto their doorstep, and Tom changes everything.
The staging is extremely effective. Although the working space is quite small, the apartment is fully realized; living room, two bedrooms, a bathroom, the front door. The actors weave in front of and around the audience with ease, often emerging to reveal impressively speedy quick changes. A chalkboard painted on the back wall not only makes the place feel like the home of young women, but also provides a resourceful way to show the passage of time.
The script is succinct and natural, with a satisfying cadence. Funny, provocative, and unapologetically unafraid to say the things we actually say when we are amongst our closest friends, or drunk and completely uninhibited, or terrified and hurting to our core, or all of the above. Through it we come to fully understand all of the complexities of the character’s relationship dynamics, and to believe them wholeheartedly.
Cala and Eigo both provide tragically intense depictions of Shannon and Claudia. Shannon was raised in a setting that empowered her to believe she was special. Although she is plagued by anxiety, presumably brought upon by expectations of achievement and success, she has an air of superiority. Cala does an admirable job of conveying the pretentiousness that Shannon wears as a shield to hide her insecurity.
Claudia lacks self-worth. With a family so unloving and unsupportive that even her closest friend has never met them. To remedy the void she feels within, she seeks superficial intimacy. But she loves Shannon. More than anyone. Hurting Shannon, even though it is not her fault, absolutely breaks Claudia. And that is not conveyed through words. It is conveyed through Eigo’s intoxically powerful performance.
Kalei Devilly is charming, warm, and captivating as Tom. His affection for Shannon is palpable, which makes his secret even more impactful. And Duane Daniels, actor and former Artistic Director of Space 55 is superb as Shannon’s Dad. Powerful and protective, he takes action without hesitation in a moment when any father would.
Unmentionables is an enlightening show. Especially for young people who are still making their way in this crazy, complex, and cutthroat world we live in. It explores the ways in which our upbringing impacts our life choices. The professional lives we lead with perpetual hopes of finding something more fulfilling. The powerful friendships we establish, although some have underpinnings of jealousy, resentment, fear or frustration. Falling in love, and how devastatingly scary it is because of the vulnerability it requires. Heartbreak, and the realization that no other human emotion compares to it. Forgiveness, or the lack thereof.
Unmentionables was brought to Phoenix’s Space 55 from Boston for a very limited run on August 16-25. Show tickets are no longer available. However, you can follow Molly Greville (the playwright) here for updates on the show. You can also find out about the upcoming Space 55 shows at and purchase tickets here.