Ever wondered what it would be like if the Republic of Gilead took over Brooklyn?
That’s what Marcia Belsky and Melissa Stokoski found themselves imagining when they watched “The Handmaid’s Tale” on Hulu. The Brooklyn-based comedians had been working on a musical parody of “Fiddler on the Roof” set during the L Train shutdown — the family is forced to move to Astoria — but when that infrastructure nightmare got pushed back, they thought, why not first give “The Handmaid’s Tale” the Brooklyn treatment?
“We loved the show but we all shared this thing about how difficult it is to watch, how every episode you kind of have to force your way through,” says Belsky, host of the podcast "Misandry with Marcia and Rae." Staging a musical parody was a way to “take this Handmaid’s narrative and make it not as brutal to endure.”
“Handmaid’s Tale: The Musical,” which the two wrote, directed and star in, opens Thursday night at Union Hall.
In their version, young women in the borough realize something sinister is afoot when they begin to lose access to privileges of the Brooklyn bubble.
“They lose their social media accounts, can’t get Ubers, Seamless is down, brunch reservations are canceled with no warning,” explains Stokoski, who hosts "Bitches Brew" standup comedy night at Halyard's Bar.
The Commanders are wealthy liberal elites who are not so secretly men’s rights activists, while the handmaids are hip millennial women assigned to Carroll Gardens brownstones. The Serena Joys are “those Park Slope moms we’ve all worked for who are like, ‘Yeah, I went to the march, too,’ and act like they’re on your side, but there’s still that class divide,” says Belsky.
Belsky portrays Offred (played by Elisabeth Moss in the show) as a “stereotypical naive musical heroine, who moves to NYC to pursue her dreams and ends up living in Bay Ridge,” she says. Stokoski co-stars as Ofglen (Alexis Bledel), renamed Rory Gilmore — as a joke on how, while watching the series, it was nearly impossible to extricate Bledel from her “Gilmore Girls” character.
Nick, (swoon-worthy as Max Minghella in the show) here goes as “Extremely Hot Nick,” a nod to how the character's seductive vibe is “so distracting you almost forget it’s a dystopia.” Janine is reincarnated as “Janine the One-Eyed Bitch,” a drunk Brooklyn party girl who “goes crazy because she had a verified Twitter account and can’t accept that it’s gone.”
In this imagining, the handmaids actually get to carry out their rebellion. “We give them more of a happy ending, because it’s a musical,” explains Stokoski. “We wanted to make it funny while we still can, before we’re imprisoned.”
The January 25 premiere of "Handmaid's Tale: The Musical" is sold out. Visit unionhallny.com for tickets to additional performances.