Following, er, on the heels of last year’s successful Albertine in Five Times (cross-reference below) every female actor on the Niagara Peninsula was rounded up to flesh out Clare Boothe Luc’’s hilariously instructive treatise on the modern woman (circa 1936). Even some six decades later there is much for men to learn and women to admire.
In the evolutionary role of the model of motherhood who begins as docile, dutiful wife and ends up as the cattiest conniver of them all, Jenny Young excels as Mary Haines. Initially pitied then gradually revered by her coterie of “friends” (whose allegiances are as shifting as the sands of the Sahara Desert), the personal (then frequently public) affairs of the women seem as timeless as ever. Deftly proving (as witness the “Sweden” infidelity joke—how could Luce have known how that line would ring true even as a present-day tiger’s insatiable appetite was so loudly revealed) that we are doomed to repeat the past.
Happily, the men in their lives are never seen but remain at the core of the conversations. Due to matrimonial realignments over the story’s nearly three-year span, a second Mrs. Haines (Moya O’Connell devours the adulterous-turned-woman-of-means role of Crystal Allen with delicious duplicity) arrives to do battle with the first. Mrs. Fowler I, comes in the hilarious personage of Deborah Hay only to be usurped from her marital throne by Fowler II (Nicola Correia-Damude is as wonderfully reprehensible as her predecessor is cattily caustic).
The sole/soul virgin amongst them Nancy (Kelli Fox is superb as the wry author of All the Dead Ladies) adds balance to the frantic comings-and-goings with such mood-shifting lines as “Practically nobody ever misses a woman.” Sharry Flett also strikes just the right tone playing Mary’s quietly patient mother, Mrs. Morehead, whose own experience with a wandering husband was endured with copious amounts of willful blindness.
Rounding out the leads (literally in the first instance) are Jenny L. Wright’s engaging performance as the perpetually-pregnant Edith Potter, and Wendy Thatcher’s marvellously effervescent, tipsy take on serial bride Countess de Lage.
The remainder of the cast members have multiple roles keeping everyone on their toes and providing Luce the opportunity of looking into nearly every facet of female living: the hairdresser scene is nothing short of muddy mayhem; the upscale fitting room reveals so much more than just over-priced garments; the exercise set—tears-in-your-eyes funny as Hay and Beryl Bain playing Peggy are sarcastically coached by the “Instructress” from Hell (Saccha Dennis); a post-partum cigarette in the maternity suite speaks volumes about the joy of childbirth; a Reno hotel room delightfully sets the stage for further relationship follies; the glamorous powder room at the casino is the last stop and oh-so-appropriate place for the final airing of dirty laundry and the launch of Mary’s inner and outer claws.
As good as the acting is, much of this show’s success comes from William Schmuck’s brilliant design (everything moves beautifully from locale to locale; employing suitcase furniture in Nevada is a wonderful meeting of form and function), Kevin Lamotte’s spot-on lighting plot and the considerable abilities of director Alisa Palmer who has kept the pace moving progressively forward without slipping into self-indulgence, trusting everyone to go with her flow. JWR