THE WOMEN

Review by Norm Gross
The PMP Network

At the Roberts Studio Theatre in the Calderwood Pavilion in the Boston Center for the Arts, the SpeakEasy Stage Company presents its new production of "The Women" by Clare Boothe Luce. A major success on Broadway when first staged there in 1936, it went on to similarly great approval when it was on stage, and as an all-female Hollywood film in 1939. A full scale production was presented on national TV in 1955 and in 1956 it was also redone as Hollywood movie-musical entitled, "The Opposite Sex" (at that time men were included in the cast.) It then enjoyed a well received Broadway revival in 1973. More recently, an equally applauded new production was also nationally telecast in 2002 on PBS-TV. Sweet upper-class Mary Haines seems to have it all, a prominent wealthy husband, two lovely small children, and a splendid, large Manhattan apartment, complete with servants. Unfortunately, her "perfect" life is suddenly turned upside down when she discovers that her "wonderful" husband is heavily involved in a secret affair with a salesgirl. Swirling within the beauty salons and around the luncheon tables, her socialite best "friends" are quick and very delighted to find out as much as they can, about Mary's new awareness. And much like bees circling a newly found source for honey, they swoop in, full force! Foremost are the alternating reassuring, comforting and yet malicious and duplicitous Sylvia, together with her sly and vixen-ish cohort Miriam. Also blended prominently into their many intrigues we find middle-aged and ever pregnant Edith, and sweetly demure Peggy. Mary's elderly mother tries to comfort her daughter while offering her some wise cautionary advice. Mary, however, ultimately leaves for Reno, Nevada for her expected divorce. There she meets the very amusing, multi-wed, matronly and American Countess de Lage, who supplies her with many grandly witty observations about marriage. Sometime later, Mary also finally meets her ex-husband's predatory former and now married mistress Crystal Allen. Not too surprisingly, Crystal is now thinking of moving on to more golden fields by changing husbands. Surrounded by the mounting avalanche of bristling gossip, not only by her catty best "friends," but also from the many hairdressers, shop girls, and assorted other females who cross her path, Mary makes the grand decision to do whatever it takes to win her husband back. The large, nearly perfect, 22 member cast provide vivid portrayals framed by a nonstop shower of genuinely sharp and very amusing comments. Anne Gottlieb is effectively compelling as the troubled Mary Haines; with sharp, edgy comic support from Maureen Keiller as Sylvia, Sonya Rae as Miriam, Kerry A. Dowling as Edith, and Aimee Doherty as Peggy. Beautiful blonde Georgia Lyman is appropriately hard-nosed and opportunistic as Crystal and Mary Klug is quite engaging as the Countess. Alice Duffy as Mary's wise mother and Ellen Colton as both a gossipy beautician and a crusty Reno cook are also especially noteworthy. Nancy E. Carroll is continually strong as writer Nancy Blake who is most often onstage as a dispassionate onlooker and narrator. Bryna Bloomfield's sleek, multi-columned and highly adaptable set, Gail Astrid Buckley's elegant costumes, Dewey Dellay's well considered musical choices (including some trenchant lyrics by Cole Porter), and most certainly Scott Edmiston's assured direction, all combine to make this show such a memorable winner! Now playing through October 21. (My Grade: 5)