Let’s Get Ready Together, written by Lizzie Stern and directed by Lily Riopelle, is a story about the friendship between three young women navigating their first semester of college. It is a story about daughters separated from their mothers for the first time, and the young women’s need for continued closeness with their mothers, conflicting with their desire for independence. It is a story about the way women talk with one another and past each other, and how the need to be heard can clash with the responsibility to listen.
It is an ambitious play, exploring multiple layers of different relationships in only ninety minutes’ time, capturing essential elements of the college experience in a way that leaves the audience feeling as though they’ve been transported back to their own dorm room.
An early scene depicts the three main characters (Ella, Nina, and Clara) taking part in an RA-mandated “getting to know you” game: Two Truths and a Lie. Within minutes, the young women (played by Rachel B. Joyce, Marieta Carrero, and Arielle Goldman) lay out some of their deepest insecurities and fears with buoyant energy. They come from different socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, but their relief in sharing their secrets creates an instant bond between them.
This bond carries them through the social challenges universal for college freshmen – navigating parties, fretting about Parents’ Day, negotiating new romantic and sexual experiences, creating the perfect BFF selfie – until a hate crime on campus upends their relationship. Nina, suddenly, can no longer focus on the day-to-day college experience or even her declared major (she’s the only one of her friends who has one), because an ethnic slur carved in a dining hall table has shaken her to her core. She can’t find comfort in her new best friends, who care deeply about her but can’t understand the depth of her pain. The differences between the characters, once a complementary force in their friendship, are thrown into focus and become a source of interpersonal and internal conflict.
Most of the drama takes place in the middle of a dorm room in the center of the small stage. The room sometimes belongs to Ella, sometimes to Nina, and sometimes to Clara. The fluid way in which the room becomes one character’s room, and then another’s, highlights the universal experience of being a confused first-year student, while simultaneously giving their individual struggles room to grow. Ella is secure in her sexual identity but uncomfortable with exploring sexual pleasure. Nina, in addition to finding her place as a first-generation Latina student on a white-dominated New England campus, tries to balance her excitement of pursuing her lifelong dream and her homesickness for her mother. Clara struggles to manage her social anxiety and explore the confusing identity of being a Jewish woman in America (declaring once, innocently and a bit defensively, “I’m Jewish – I’m not that white!”).
The last scene between Nina and her mother (Ruth Aguilar) feels a bit abrupt, as though the play doesn’t quite know how to end. Perhaps this is intentional to show how little of life can be resolved after two months of college. Or maybe the play is just reluctant to say goodbye to these complex, beautifully crafted characters portrayed by a universally strong cast. I was left wanting more time with Ella, Nina, Clara, and the other women in their lives. I wanted to see the people they would become at the end of their first semester. Anyone who goes to The Tank for the run of Let’s Get Ready Together is likely to feel the same way.