This year marks the 40th anniversary of women at Bowdoin and the Department of Theater and Dance has not missed the opportunity to comment on the challenges women have faced breaking into various fields. "Top Girls," directed by Assistant Professor of Theater Abigail Killeen, tracks one driven woman's struggle to ascend the ladder of an employment agency in early-1980s Britain. The play, written by Caryl Churchill, premiered last night and will be performed again tonight and tomorrow.

Marlene, played by Kacey Berry '13, is as tough as nails and has overcome an arduous past to pursue her ambitions. Her sister Joyce (Amy Spens '15) and niece Angie (Kate Kearns '14) both provide bracing depictions of an alternate future Marlene could have had if she made different choices.

In order to fully contextualize the feminist theme of "Top Girls," Ruiqi Tang '13 acted as a dramaturge during the production process. Her work orchestrating the presentation of the different women was apparent during the second scene in which women from history join Marlene for a longwinded yet fast-paced dinner. The dialogue in this scene includes the women talking over each other, interrupting each other, and making sure their voices are heard. Intentionally disjointed from the storyline, this scene offers the audience an opportunity to hear the stories of historically significant women from history and fiction, such as Pope Joan, Isabella Bird, Dull Gret, Lady Nijo, and Patient Griselda.

The acting in "Top Girls" was pitch-perfect and the dialogue was quick and witty. Each actress seemed to embrace the "stiff upper lip" stereotype of strong English women and unabashedly made the audience sharply question the role of a women in a capitalist society. Furthermore, the scenes of great emotion were raw and vulnerable and portrayed with a great fervor and clear understanding of Churchill's original intent.

All the players, both on and off the stage, are deserving of praise.

At the beginning and end of scenes, the audience is sucked into the action with an eerily intense musical crescendo. A fun additional feature is how scene transitions include modest wardrobe changes happening on stage and set changes that include the characters staying fully in character. This keeps the audience's mind focused on the action at hand and makes the characters come off as more real than fiction. Although each person plays multiple roles (with the exception of Marlene), each is presented in a distinct way that only adds to this effect.

There is not a moment when the audience has a chance to forget about the female characters onstage.

As the play ends, the audience is left to ponder the sacrifices a woman must make in order to be successful. Does this mean raising children and living out the safe yet sheltered existence of a housewife? Or does it mean masculinizing one's self in an attempt to earn money and gain status in the workforce?

What the cast of "Top Girls" shrewdly does is simply depict these two outcomes with their respective consequences, both good and bad, without making any ultimate judgment calls.

The paper program offers a director's note in which Killeen states, "The choices we are faced with are complex. The answers don't lie in simply the right job, the right choice, a female prime minister, or even in a free market economy. Freedom has consequences and casualties. Those casualties are real: our relationships, our children and even ourselves." The cast of "Top Girls" beautifully portrays these consequences and leaves the viewers with a better understanding of how hard women have had to work to establish themselves as independent individuals.