All Sleeping Women Now Wake and Move: A Review of COLD by Sarah Pappalardo

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

“I’m still here,” proclaims Linda, the weary and worn protagonist of Sarah Pappalardo’s drama Cold, which plays at this month’s GayFest.  Linda may be here, but The Birdhole, the bar that her and her former lover, Helen, own in a gentrified section of Chicago, is far from “here.”  There are broken tables, vomit on the floor, and excrement splattered on the bathroom walls—as one of the fading owners of the bar puts it, “At the end of the day, everybody needs a shithole.”  The disarray of the bar serves as the extended metaphor that runs throughout the play, which juxtaposes the clear generational gaps between both Linda and Helen and the only two bar patrons of the establishment, Britt and Ky, a “fem” and a FTM transsexual, respectively.  The play makes some interesting points about legacy and sexuality, although one finds it hard to believe that the four characters would come to terms with the overwhelming personality fissures that are peppered throughout the drama.

William Steinberger’s direction of the production is level-handed and gentle; he lets the actors do the work, which, in the case of Pappalardo’s script, is the smartest move to make. Linda Schapley, who plays Linda, is clearly the one of the standouts in the cast.  Schapley’s performance is carefully calculated and she brings a series of neurotic nuances to Linda’s development.  There is an energy and pulsing anxiety that rings through her character; quite literally, Linda is disintegrating just as fast as The Birdhole.

Mary Beth Shrader, who plays Britt, the younger, outgoing bar patron, also makes a notable premiere at the festival.  Shrader’s performance is painfully honest; she finds the emotional vulnerability of Britt and demonstrates that underneath the perky undergraduate student, there is a sense of loss and confusion, especially when it comes to her friendship with her former lover turned FTM in transition, Ky.

Pappalardo’s script is adequately paced and makes some valid points about protest versus compliancy, legacy versus truth.  Both Linda and Helen were proclaimed “violent feminists” by a Chicago-area newspaper in the 70’s, a title that both seem to hold dearly, despite a changing tide of sexuality and culture.  Helen lives in a fantasyland, a world of lovers, liquor, cigarettes, and regret; Linda, the realist, goes so far as to cover the bar’s trademark “Fuck Breeders” sign to make the bar seem slightly more “conformist.”

There are bitter fights, especially between Linda and Ky, over sexual identity and womanhood.  Nevertheless, the characters seem to make peace come the end of the play, and, perhaps, even though this seems unrealistic, it is an example of art imitating life; on the evening of my viewing of the drama, the Philadelphia LGBTQ community was questioning the sudden closure of Sisters, the city’s only female-focused gay bar.  The timing couldn’t be a more perfect example of how the past is too eerily like the present.

Cold runs through August 24 at Plays & Players upstairs studio, 1714 Delancey Street, Philadelphia.  Visit (info: 215-627-1088) for more information.

Read Related Posts...