SALT LAKE CITY — Plan-B Theatre is celebrating their 30th anniversary by offering a new and COVID-safe audio-only subscription series for their 2021 season. The first offering, in partnership with Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, is the world premiere of Julie Jensen’s P.G. Anon, three stories about three women in three acts. The three stories, based on real events, take place at different times in each woman’s life throughout the last thirty years, reflecting American politics alongside each woman’s experience of an unexpected pregnancy. Billed as “a tale of fear, fury and reproduction,” P.G. Anon is an enjoyable listen, as well as a poignant telling of female experience regarding sex, harassment and reproductive rights.
Director and sound designer Cheryl Ann Cluff and sound engineer David Evanoff took great care to ensure the highest quality of vocal recording and sound editing and synching. The many background noises help to paint a picture of the setting and action, making it apparent that the characters are doing chores, driving or exercising, for example. I also appreciated ambient noises, like birds chirping and music, that made the whole piece appear more realistic, as well as distinguishing the mood of the three stories.
The voice acting all around in P.G. Anon is equally impressive. April Fossen is exceedingly intriguing as Pauline, an older mother who finds the idea of having another child taxing (to say the least). Fossen’s expressive voice emphasizes her character’s emotions and frustrations, while still providing many moments of humor. I found it endearing when Fossen would sing her lines and the choir practice scene was a favorite of mine. Emilie Starr offers a different perspective as Tiffany, a woman who can’t afford or easily provide for a child, struggling to survive herself. Starr’s character accentuates life’s hardships, particularly for those dealing with addiction. Sydney Shoell as Sheila navigates the flowing dialogue with emotion and naiveté, as well as a keen wisdom beyond her years. As a young teenager, she yearns for more than a traditional life of marriage and motherhood, yet already understands how life can be unfair for women.
Despite being just over an hour in length, Jensen (Utah’s most produced playwright) has created a script with descriptive dialogue that is engaging and relatable. While all three of the stories are vastly different from each other, they are all uniquely connected as well. With obvious oppressive religious and patriarchal themes throughout, P.G. Anon emphasizes the pressure that women feel to survive in a man’s world. The show explores interesting political parallels as various large news scandals are juxtaposed in each act with each woman’s story. These scandals being sexual allegations regarding Donald Trump in 2016, Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky in 1998, and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill in 1991, in Acts 1 through 3, respectfully. The involvement of these news events throughout the drama smartly and effectively exposes the government’s role in women’s rights and reproductive health, and why women in this country have felt silenced, disrespected and controlled for so long.
Though P.G. Anon brings to light important issues and is packed full of substance, it is a fun and easy listen on its surface. As Plan-B’s first ever full-length audio-only drama, P.G. Anon is a great success. While working within pandemic restrictions, Plan-B Theatre’s adaptive ingenuity shines through with this high-quality production and I look forward to the rest of the season.