Review: Pity the woman with brains (Truth Values, Broad Street Review)October 5, 2013
By Ilene Raymond Rush
For Broad Street Review
The topic of Gioia De Caris energetically honest, and sporadically funny play, Truth Values, couldnt be more current. Women continue to battle stereotypes to break into science, technology, engineering and math, only to bump against gender-challenged comments like those delivered to De Cari by one of her MIT professors: Wouldnt you rather be home with babies?
De Caris 90-minute one-woman performance brings several such maddening moments to the fore. In one, she compliments a fellow math major who returns a zinger: Youre the sort of woman Id like to darn my socks. An MBA approaches her in a lounge where she is studying and condescendingly identifies her as a Wellesley undergrad. When she explains she is married and a math PhD candidate, he immediately retreats and asks if she tutors.
Dealing with dorks
De Cari is an animated performer with a valid gripe, but her voice tends towards the grating and whiny. She spends too much time describing her anger, rather than dramatizing its cause. And some of her accumulated slights seem thin.
For example, when she complains to the dean of women about a fellow student who had developed an unwanted crush on her, the dean replies, Only one? I couldnt help wondering why a woman of De Caris alleged brains and skills couldnt find a way to deal with some of these dorks on her own.
Whyd she quit?
De Caris response to MITs sexist status quo is to wear over-the-topüber-feminine ensembles, purportedly to unnerve the male chauvinists in her midst. Such a strategy, while amusing, hardly seems like an adequate or mature protest against institutional bullying.
In the end, after finding a sympathetic professor and breaking ground with a few women in the program, De Cari finishes a masters of science but abandons the PhD. No doubt she had a hard road at MIT. But one wonders if her real problem was institutional sexism or the difficulty of being a hot personality in a cool environment. De Caris dream of becoming an actor she appeared in several productions while a graduate student may have simply trumped her math research.
Her reading of a few intensely poetic lines from her masters thesis leaves little doubt that De Cari was indeed capable of earning a PhD, regardless of the sexists in her midst. So the question that that lingers as you leave is: If she wanted a career in math, why did she leave the program?
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