You Know I’m Misunderstood- The Unresolved Female Struggles in ‘bare’

Spoilers ahead for the musical ‘bare’ don’t read if you want to remain unspoiled:
In the Hartmere/Inbartolo musical ‘bare’ the titular hero is either Peter or Jason, a successful hero who grows, learns, and ends the show better than when he began it? That would be Peter for you.  The tragic hero who can’t succeed in the world in which he finds himself, who allows the pressures of life and expectation to overwhelm him until he takes the easy way (for him anyways-its incredibly hard and nigh impossible for those left behind) out of the show- Jason.
But while Peter might have a successful (in that he survives and remains true to himself) journey through the show, and although he is the leading character, I don’t think he’s the most dynamic or intriguing character.
The focus of the show is mostly on the male characters’ struggle with their sexuality, and that’s an important message for audiences, but for me, an equally important message is left unresolved, the female characters’ struggle with love, acceptance and where they fit into life.
Ivy is seen as the slutty fun party girl.  But as she sings in “All Grown Up”  her mother had to “scrimp and save” for her to have the life she has now.  This can be seen many different ways, but the way I read it, Ivy is the product of another unwed teenaged mother, since there’s no mention of her father at all.  As with many teenaged pregnancies, the child grows up in a rough situation, and is more likely to get pregnant (or get someone pregnant) themselves, and often have issues with confusing love and attention.  What Ivy wants is love, but the only way she’s found to get what she thinks she wants, is to get attention.  The best way to get attention, be outrageous, be easy.  But she’s slowly beginning to realize that attention isn’t what she wants, she’s become the butt of many jokes, often very cruel (see her birthday party).  The song that Nadia wrote for her birthday party, shows a distinct lack knowledge as to who the real Ivy is, “Portrait of a Girl” is her cry for acceptance and understanding, which only Matt hears.
Now, in a world of 16 and Pregnant, and Teen Mom, the consequences of unsafe sex are right there in the forefront of the collective unconscious, as well as in the pop culture need to know.  But when ‘bare’ premiered in 2000, we were in the middle of an ‘abstinence only’ proclamation from upon high.  Anyone who wanted to teach about safer sex and birth control, had to do so without the all mighty federal dollar.  So Ivy and Jason’s predicament is lamentable yet understandable.  The first time Ivy and Jason had sex, Ivy was too intoxicated to insist on protection, and Jason was too wrapped up in his own confusion to think of anything but what was happening right at that moment to think about long term consequences.  The fact that Jason at first refused to act on the fact that Ivy was throwing herself at him because she was “wasted and this is wrong” and then screwed her anyways, is tantamount to date rape.  She was not in a fit state to consent to buying a toothbrush, let alone having sex with someone.  But that’s another story.
Nadia keeps everyone at a distance with her anger and her ability to craft a cunning put down for most everyone, especially Ivy.  She too has issues with her mother, namely not being good enough for her white collar Stepford mother.  And she too wants love and acceptance, but whenever the rest of the kids try to include her, like in the rave, she rejects their offers, preferring to spend “A Quiet Night At Home.”   Yet bemoaning the fact that she is home alone, despite it having been her idea in the first place.
By the end of the show, Ivy and Nadia have made up, at least a little bit, due to the fact that Ivy is going to have Nadia’s niece or nephew, and that they both lost Jason.
But the major issues that both Nadia and Ivy have, they haven’t been resolved.  Ivy still needs to be loved, which she will find at least for a while from her child (should she have it and keep it); and Nadia is now more lost than ever.  The only person she ever really trusted and who understood her unconditionally, is gone and she now has to handle the pressures of her parents alone with no one to lean on, and she has to try to find a way to help Ivy.
Nadia is too good of a person to not help Ivy, even if it’s not officially her responsibility, she is intensely loyal to those she loves and her family.  Despite her parents being righteous assholes who want to mold their children into what they believe to be the right values, she still loves them enough to try to make them happy.
Ivy ends the show out a baby daddy, and still at odds with the world and unclear as to what her next move will be.
The male characters at least have more closure to their characters’ issues, Jason is dead and has no more problems, and despite mourning Jason’s death, Peter has claimed who he is out loud and proud for the world to accept or not as they will.
The video I shot during rehearsal of Terrie Carolan as Ivy singing “All Grown Up”- What an amazing voice!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s