The Wesleyan Argus | ‘Horse Girls’ Reimagines Tween Drama, Hardcore Horsemanship, and Florida Republicans With a Killer Flair

If you missed college girl drama, tutus, or anything neon pink, then “Horse Girls” makes all your nostalgic dreams come true. And even if you didn’t miss any of those things, the 45-minute one-act show written by Jenny Rachel Weiner was still about laughter, horror, grimace, joy, and everything in between. More than anything, it took audiences back to 2013, a time in life that many of us would rather forget, and yet did so in a masterful way that captured the angst of being a teenager when you feels like the world itself is conspiring against you.

Directed by Hadassa Garfein ’24 and Vincent Langan ’24 and presented at the Westco Café on Friday April 29 and Sunday May 1, “Horse Girls” brought to life the story of the Lady Jean Ladies, a group of seven 12-year-old girls – Florida spinsters living in an alternate quasi-reality in which Mitt Romney is president. Led by queen bee Ashleigh (Sadie Goldstein ’24), these girls worship horses and First Lady Ann Romney with what can only be described as religious zeal.

c/o Kyra Kushner

The show lives up to its tagline “BoYz may come and Go, but hOrSes aRe 4ever” when the ladies, played by Goldstein, Georgia Garrison ’22, Elim Lee ’22, Sarah Linsly ’24, Caroline Lamoureux ’24, Miguel Tejada ’24 and Theo Dolan ’24, discover that their beloved stables are about to be sold and their horses will be turned into meat. They spend some time arguing over what to do, but ultimately decide they should call their idol, Ann Romney, and beg her to save their horses.

Complete with an original ode to Romney written by Garfein and Langan and a voiceover by none other than President Michael S. Roth ’78, who answers the phone from the White House and refuses to let the girls talk to Romney, the show has kept audiences thrilled with the drama of these girls and their efforts for the horses they love.

“Horse Girls” is “Saddle Club” meets “Riverdale,” riddled with comedy and strung with dark undercurrents. In a gripping climax (and in typical college girl fashion), Ashleigh, caught in a violent fit of rage over love for her horses, kills two of her friends with one of her equestrian trophies when they refuse to run away with her and save their couriers. And then, of course, there’s the grand finale when the slain riders are resurrected as their killer serenades the audience with Miley Cyrus’ hit song “The Climb.”

The show features everything you could want and everything you didn’t know you wanted until it hit the stage. There are secrets and blood, both of which are spilled before the show ends, complex friend dynamics and relationship issues, and deep insecurity and competition, coupled with an inexplicable devotion to the riding and republicanism.

Garfein and Langan, who have been friends since last year, have talked about putting on “Horse Girls” ever since Garfein discovered the online game in the fall and fell in love with what she called the fun and the country side. This semester, despite evolving COVID-19 guidelines and difficulties booking performance venues, they finally made it a reality with the help of Spike Tape, a new student-run theater troupe, which produced the show.

Garfein explained why the play spoke to him in the first place.

“I’m really drawn to all-female plays written by women about young girls,” Garfein said. “And then I saw this piece. I was like, Oh my, this sounds absolutely hilarious, kind of like an elevated version of the parts I love, because it’s so crazy.

Through the production, Garfein and Langan aimed to recreate the experience of being a preteen and navigating the world at that age.

“What I really love about this piece is that it explores the scene between childhood, or more specifically youth, and everything that comes after that, which is often very uncharted territory, or mapped out , but in a way that feels fake and forced,” Garfein said. “What’s really beautiful about this piece is that all of our actors were the same age as these girls in 2013. So it’s just that they take on who they were in some ways.”

Both directors enjoyed getting inside the minds of the characters as they worked to set up the show.

“This piece does a very good job of getting into the inter-girl[s’] heads and see the range of emotions that I think even kids can conjure up in their heads,” Langan said. “In this room, people are being killed. People are partying. People are jumping into song. People read poetry. People are dancing in a circle, hugging their best friends. People cry, people shout at each other. People curse their best friends. There is such a range of madness that we are able to capture in 45 minutes.

Langan pointed out that while the show has the potential to evoke negative feelings in early adolescence, it uses humor to say something profound about the internet age, changing relationships, and the process of self-discovery.

“These girls are always blindly looking for an idol to worship, whether it’s a literal horse, whether it’s Ann Romney, or whether it’s a girl they can hang on to, for popularity and for money and all those things. “, said Langan. “[At the end] the girls begin to realize that they can be their own person and don’t have to be doormats for this queen bee. I really think it’s a piece about finding your voice at a time when you really don’t know what your voice is.

Garfein and Langan also talked about how effortless their collaboration as co-directors was.

“We work really, really well together,” Garfein said. “And obviously we have our little moments, but they always turn into jokes…. Honestly, our vision is very consistent with each other.

While college itself doesn’t usually end in a murderous twist, it’s certainly a rollercoaster of ups and downs, emotional ups and downs, moments of laughter, frustration, love, hate and everything else, all of which can bring you to tears and simultaneously reaffirm your faith in the world or, in this case, horses.

“I think the reason we were able to draw so much from this place is because we were literally this age when this show takes place,” Garfein said. “And I think that’s been such an amazing gateway for us to really bring our own vision to the show and bring it to life. Take it off the page on stage and make it ours.

Rachel Wachman can be reached at [email protected].