Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
The talented ensemble includes many veteran local actresses as well as several notable young thespians. One might say that this is the hardest working cast in Albuquerque show business. Everyone is involved in the choreographed set changes, and the action never stops.
The Women is a classic of the American theatre. Written in 1936 by the iconoclastic Clare Booth Luce, the play ran for 657 performances on Broadway and has been made into at least two major motion pictures with well known actresses from Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford to Meg Ryan and Eva Mendes. Ms. Luce actually began her public career as an actress but went on to become an editor of Vogue and Vanity Fair and write other plays, books and articles. She served in the U.S. House of Representatives from Connecticut and as the U.S. Ambassador to Italy. She was famously both a conservative Republican and a free-thinker. (Her marriage to Henry R. Luce, the media mogul of Time-Life, was said to be "open".)
As might be expected from an author of myriad experiences, The Women reflects traditional female values of its time but includes many zingers worthy of any feminist today. Revered in her later years as a heroine of the feminist movement, Luce had mixed feelings about the role of women in society. As a Republican and a Catholic convert she was a mix of contradictions.
The Women reflects this duality. On the surface this is a tale of women's lives in New York society in the 1930s. The play centers on Mary Haines and her friends as they navigate romantic rivalries and toxic friendships. Will Mary divorce her husband or will she preserve her marriage, no matter what? The action follows the women through the homes, spas, shops and restaurants of New York, and to Reno, Nevada, where women go for a divorce. The society ladies are joined by service personnel: maids, store clerks, secretaries and manicurists who, complicate and comment on the action. The play has a frenetic, screwball comedy vibe.
Janine O'Neill-Loffelmacher as Mary, Mrs. Stephen Haines, stands out at the center of all the action. She anchors the production with solid acting and three-dimensional warmth. Less three-dimensional acting is displayed by Lorri Oliver as Sylvia Fowler and Staci Robbins as Countess DeLage. Their over the top antics provide many laughs. Kudos, too, to Mary MacGyver, Stephanie Jones, and Jennifer Benoit for strong support.
The costumes were designed by two people and it seems to show. The first act period costumes are well made and accurate, but the second act gowns dispense with period and go for glitz. Mrs. Stephen Haines is beautifully costumed throughout. The set design is simple, as befits the small Adobe Theater. Basic units do more than triple duty forming the various locales. The use of white diaphanous rolling screens works well for several of the locations, but using the screens to camouflage the scene changes is less successful. The concept probably would work better in a larger theatre.
The Adobe Theatre has paired The Women with a companion offering of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues. Seeing both of these plays on successive nights is an opportunity not to be missed. They explore roles of women and illustrate the path of American feminism in the 20th century.
The Women runs through November 3, 2019, at The Adobe Theater, 9813 4th Street NW, Albuquerque NM. Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2:00 p.m. General Admission tickets are $20, discount $17. For tickets and information, visit www.adobetheater.org or call 505-898-5222
Directed by James Cady
Cast: Janine O'Neill Loffelmacher, Lorri Oliver, Michelle Eiland, Stephanie Jones, Christy Burbank, Megan Pribyl, Jenny Miller, Staci Robbins, Jennifer Benoit, Alina Horak, Mary MacGyver, Carolyn Hogan, Georgia Athern, Elizabeth Olton, Jasa Pricer, Nazneen Akhtar Rahim, Joni Lloyd, McKenzie Ross, Karissa Noelle, and Rebecca Grace