Craigslisted (Occupy the Stage 22, online)

The National Women’s Theater Festival presents Occupy The Stage 22, a livestream festival of new plays mixed in with encore readings of fan favorites from previous years.

“Through this annual showcase and community celebration, Occupy advocates for intersectionality in our industry and increased visibility to both audiences and collaborators across the globe.

OCCUPY includes 22 playwrights, 22 directors, and over 80 actors, with at least 50% BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and at least 50% women, nonbinary, and TGNC artists represented in each category.”

I was invited to review productions from this festival, which runs from 17-27 February and presents 22 virtual readings. From these I will be choosing a mix of long-form and short shows, so watch out for these reviews over the next couple of weeks.

Poster image for Craigslisted, in Occupy The Stage 22

Part of the first night’s stream, with another chance to see on 26 February, Craigslisted is written by Sharai Bohannon and directed by Abby Davis. It features Arielle Greenspan (Haley), Dana Hall (Bobbi), Parker Jenkins (Jay), Kirstyn Marshall X (Maggie), Darren C Ryan (Gary), Nick Thomas (Dave), and Ashley Kirsteen Vega (Robyn).

Maggie needs to clear some debts, and fast. She’s not been paying her bills, and she’s late with the rent. But Craigslist has ads for easy money, and it feels like she she doesn’t have to do too much for it.

A compelling story of addiction, greed, technology and betrayal, Craigslisted really caught my interest from its first scene, and I can definitely see this as a full live or digital stage production. As a reading, the stage directions are clearly articulated, and the different video windows work well.

Bohannon’s play is a well-written exploration of what might happen if self as commodity goes too far. Maggie’s friends are critical but unable to stem a route to disaster, as what feels like a bit of harmless play for cash becomes darker.

The clients are all well-drawn, from a lonely divorced man, a foot fetishist, and a member of the furry community, to something far more sinister. It is tricky to depict close relationships and dodgy deals when the cast are not together, but I soon forgot this limitation.

As Maggie’s wardrobe improves, she increasingly over-reaches and mis-steps to keep her new ‘business’ going. Although Marshall X’s performance is far from sympathetic, we nevertheless feel for her as world tips out of control. As her clients, Hall (herself a playwright and monologist), Thomas, and Ryan (whose artist bio does not mention other acting credits) were particularly good; with Vega’s meddling friend not missing a beat.

An interesting take on a modern theme of transaction, action, and reward.

You can buy tickets for the Occupy the Stage Festival with a range of pricing options here. Each day’s collection of shows remains available for 96 hours after their premiere, and each show gets two streams.