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Voices of Gemma

Rebecca Engelhardt and Brooke deRosa


Everything is accelerated. So much so, that it sometimes feels like we’ve lost the plot. Everything that’s happening — and there is so, so much happening, everywhere, every day — reveals something else that happened long ago, or alters a memory, or this news alert that just lit up all our phones is merely a plodding step toward something actually earth-shattering and so the never before seen thing happening today looms large but rings hollow, like entertainment. Nothing is linear, and it’s starting to feel like the more fantastical explanations for the most mundane things might actually hold water.

And in a situation such as the one in which we find ourselves, would it really be the craziest thing you’ve heard today if I told you that Rebecca Engelhardt and Brooke deRosa legit came here, to this year and this town, straight from the 1930s? They were transported. That would account for their look, right? It would make a certain poise in their performance less astonishing. An older vocabulary suits them better, doesn’t it? Words like madcap, in fine fettle, dame, doll, zany.

The focus and the precision, delivered with the satiny finish and hint of louche so familiar to us from big screen versions of speakeasies would make more sense if we just accepted that they’re here from the past. We’re their future, and an amount of wide-eyed shouldering on, making the best of truly strange things, is evident in how they move.

Because remember the sharpness of those black and white heroines? Rapid-fire Claudette Colbert dazzling Clark Gable in It Happened One Night. Nora lining up six martinis so she can catch up to Nick in The Thin Man. Marilyn Monroe wrecking house in Some Like It Hot, even though we all heard the rumors about her being “difficult to work with.” All those deft rejoinders amidst all that highly favored sleaze. Excellence anyway. That’s your RIYL for Gemma.

Is it so impossible that the reasons they’re here is the space time continuum has been disrupted, that, as Doc Brown so frightfully speculated, we now live in an alternate reality, a deviant place, a storyline we’re suspicious of? That Roger Rabbit is closer to accurate than CNN?

We’re in a moment when people who can really blow aren’t only boxed out of the charts, they’re looked at askance. Like what are you doing? A perfectly rational explanation for the out of time sound that is Gemma is this: two real characters broke the calendar, ended up in this godforsaken year and ooh they got a story to tell.


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