from The Washington Post, Tuesday, July 2, 2002; Page C05

For Cherry Red, An Appetizing Tale

By Jane Horwitz

Wendy MacLeod is the sort of big-time playwright whose works are premiered at Chicago's Goodman Theatre and Playwrights Horizons in New York. And "The House of Yes," a 1997 indie film adapted from her play, became a cult favorite.

Yet who gets to do the second production ever of "Schoolgirl Figure," MacLeod's trenchant comic screed about the anexoric-bulimic teen subculture? Washington's Cherry Red Productions, that's who -- purposely outrageous, shoestring-budgeted, don't-trust-anyone-over-30 Cherry Red. Its subversive, pitch-perfect production runs at Metro Cafe (14th and Church streets NW) through July 28.

"I thought it was suitably transgressive," said MacLeod of Cherry Red's approach, noting that the company captured the "rock-and-roll atmosphere" the Goodman strove for. "This play was crying out for a younger audience than it was going to get at a big . . . theater."

"Schoolgirl Figure," said the Arlington native, now an associate professor and playwright-in-residence at Kenyon College in Ohio, spooks established theater companies, so she gives Cherry Red credit: "I figured any company brave enough to do this deserves to do [it]. . . . People are scared of it. I think there are some people who actually think I'm saying anorexia is a good thing." MacLeod calls her style "theater of inversion -- you take the opposite tack that people expect and go from there."

The playwright attended Cherry Red's "Schoolgirl" opening last month and was pleased to see the mostly teenage cast tackle her script and its ironies so smartly. Renee, leader of a fat-phobic clique who strangles a bulimic friend on her deathbed, proclaims, "When people are sad they eat -- that's why I try never to feel anything." Sixteen-year-old Sica Nielson, a junior at Duke Ellington School of the Arts, tosses that line off neatly.

"My idea was to write about a high school where the girls were competing to disappear -- this idea that women should take up less space," explains MacLeod. "The odd thing about this play is that it's kind of [about] the quest for perfection gone wrong."