Breaking Down the Walls of Beauty

​Review of Impenetrable by SIS Productions

Do you think of yourself as beautiful? Whatever the answer may be, it’s more than likely you’ve been exposed to external forces that have shaped the way you perceive yourself and others that fall within certain standards of beauty. One powerful external force is the mammoth-like monster of the media sending the recurring message of the objectification of women’s bodies.

Impenetrable by Mia McCullough full-frontally deals with issues regarding the objectification of women in the media, beauty, religion, relationships, and rape culture in a compelling way. By engaging the audience through a narrative that involves sensitive topics, the show challenges the ideals entrenched in society that tend to value women for their outward appearance.

Impenetrable is inspired by true events that took place in 2007 in Glenview, a suburb of Chicago. The community in Glenview protested when an enormous billboard promoting a local spa was placed over Willow Road. The billboard depicted a young woman posing in a bikini at a beach. The controversy was sparked because of the several arrows that pointed at the model’s “problem areas” throughout her body and provided “solutions,” including botox for wrinkles and lipodissolve for cellulite. Despite the turmoil, the owner of the spa refused to remove the billboard from public view. This incident inspired Mia McCullough to work with the different issues and themes revolving around expectations of female beauty.

The play develops in a non-linear fashion, with a narrative that evolves as the topics filter into each other. The script places emphasis on the monologue as a vehicle for the characters to engage with the narrative in a way that is powerful and profound. As the actors perform, they describe a particular viewpoint or experience revolving around issues triggered by the billboard. The characters engage in a series of monologues as they tap into issues regarding society’s obsession with beauty and women’s fears and insecurities. Using the monologue as a vehicle for exploration of the character’s stories in the script made their sharing of experiences something that audiences could easily relate to.

In like fashion, the cast is comprised of actors who give life to characters of different ages and backgrounds, something that is effective since audience of different ages can relate and identify with the various stages in life the characters engage in. The performances are energetic and unique, with each actor projecting a particular identity and sense of individuality to their roles.

Laudable is the performance of Sara Javkhlan in the role of Cari, who at 11 years old is able to project and portray in a realistic way the issues and troubles that young women deal with, from being bullied to aspiring to develop breasts. Also laudable is the performance of Erwin Galan in the role of Mourad who showcases a powerful character full of nuances, humor, and emotion.

The setting of the play is simple yet bold, enabling the audience to feel the intimacy of the space as the actors perform. Despite the fact that none of the actors used microphones they were able to project their voices effectively. Following the train of thought of the play, the set designer, Kim Rosin, recreated a version of the billboard in the form of a dissected painting which visually represented the topics dealt throughout the play regarding the objectification of beauty, women, and their bodies. The lighting of the production added dynamism as the frequent changes in tone and brightness added subtle nuances in the transition of scenes.

Each story shared by the characters remind the audience how important it is to redefine the way women are valued in our culture, inviting us to break the walls that bind us to expectations based on sexist ideals, objectification, and hypersexualization of women.

Impenetrable is a show that people from a wide range of ages and backgrounds can benefit from, particularly because it invites viewers to engage in dialogue of important topics and issues that affect both women and men. Through the dialogue of “problem areas” in our society we can come to understand how searching for “solutions” encourage us to value women as human beings and appreciate their abilities and accomplishments over physical appearance.

SIS Productions
April 11 - May 3

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