The Handmaid's Tale, the Emmy-winning television show that arrived on Hulu in April, posed the question: What if society only valued women for their reproductive power? The Handmaid's Tale: The Musical poses the question: Okay, but what if that happened to millennials in Brooklyn?
"We started thinking [about] what it would actually look like if a Christian theocracy took over Brooklyn," Marcia Belsky, one of two co-writers, tells Refinery29. "Obviously the reality would be terrifying. But in the abstract, it was hilarious." Belsky is a Brooklyn-based comedian who co-hosts the podcast Misandry with Marcia and Rae. She wrote the show with the comedian Melissa Stokoski, who hosts the weekly stand-up show Bitches Brew in Gowanus. Their musical will make its one-night-only debut on January 25 at Union Hall in Brooklyn.
The Handmaid's Tale is viciously grim, down to the show's colour palette. This has made it awards bait. There are those aforementioned Emmys, and the show is nominated for three Golden Globes, including Best Drama Series. A show that visible and that dour is perfect for parody. Saturday Night Live did a spin on it in May and The Rundown with Robin Thede sent up the Hulu show in October.
Explains Belsky, "It's ripe for parody and cathartic because, through these overindulged millennial characters, we finally get to give the Handmaids power — the exact power that is so painful to see them lack in the show."
She points out that parody and satire are their own form of power. "I love the notion of a humourless feminist because the women I know laugh about the absolutely darkest shit," Belsky says. Hers and Stokoski's version of the show includes characters such as "Janine the One Eyed Bitch," "Aunt Betsy Devos," and "Extremely Hot Nick." (Refinery29's Handmaid's Tale recapper Anne Cohen referred to this character as "Thirst Trap Nick" in her write-ups.)
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