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Prince William Little Theatre The Women

By • Jun 7th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
The Women by Claire Booth Luce
Prince William Little Theatre
Gregory Family Theatre, Manassas, VA
Through June 12th
2:55 with one intermission
$15/$12 Students and Seniors/$8 Kids
Reviewed June 4th, 2011

What happens if you gather a group of women together? They gossip about their friends, and their friends’ husbands. And what happens when one of the women present steps out for a moment? She of course becomes the object of the conversation. Prince William Little Theatre closes out their season with Claire Booth Luce’s The Women, where gossip and backbiting are raised to an art form.

Director Scott Olson has assembled an impressive cast of twenty women, who were transformed into sophisticated, worldly women of 1936. The gorgeous costumes were coordinated by the team of Sabrina Chandler, Susy Moorstein and Claudia Tameris. Mary-Anne Sullivan’s hair and makeup design fit the period. Jarret Baker’s set was well done, using the enormous space at the Hylton Performing Arts Center. One challenge of the space is that a few scenes felt as if they were being played off in the wings of the stage. Scenes changes were handled as quickly as possible, but there was a lot of scenery to move on and off, so some of the changes felt endless. One creative touch was a series of panels that were removed during each scene change in the first act, and then in the second act were slowly restored, mirroring the life of Mary Haines. One problem was that it was difficult to know where many scenes were taking place. Many of the furnishings and set dressings were very basic, so a few scenes were confusing.

Mary Haines, the dutiful wife, a hopeless romantic, was played with vitality by Eliza Kelley. Kelley made us like Mary, and showed us her strength, even as Mary’s mother and friends expressed their displeasure with Mary’s decisions. Kelley came across as kind and endearing, even likeable. She was highly contrasted with her “friend” Sylvia, played by Lori Muhlstein as the puppet master. Mary’s rival Crystal Allen was played by Robin Zerbe with verve, especially in the confrontation at the fitting room.

There was a fight scene in the second act that was not at all convincing. The movements seemed to be in slow motion, the actresses seemed to be thinking about what they were about to do. Overall, there were some pacing issues that made the production feel sluggish at times, but there were also moments of joy, hope and laughter to balance out what The Women go through.

Director’s Notes

I have longed to do this how. When I first saw it in my 20’s I thought I would absolutely die if I didn’t get to see it again. Soon after, I got my first VCR, a copy of the movie, and have seen it more than a couple of hundred times since…the lines, the costumes, the sheer audacity of The Women is, in my mind a brilliant piece of magic. When I first saw it on stage I thought that I missed something; while it ‘followed’ the movie, it was different… but I still loved it! I had to direct this how – especially since I couldn’t be in it! In speaking of the movie, the quote below gives a quick summary of how…

The Women maps out territory that now seems obsolete. Park Avenue ladies living only for the bedroom, the beauty parlor and Reno. The Women imagines a world of nothing but a place where perpetual scheming and gossiping dominate, even a virtuous wife must eventually stain her nails ‘Jungle Red’. Claire Booth [Luce] authored the hit Broadway play. For some reason it was doctored ‘out of town’ by George S. Kaufman before its 1937 debut. Hollywood bought the property but quickly blue-penciled sections of it as unacceptable under the still strictly enforced Production Code. Freudian vocabulary was a problem (frigid libido), but so were the sophisticated attitudes.” [c. moviediva2000]

For the time, they were sophisticated. Not so much nowadays. But I have to tell you that the script with its play on words, is one of the first things that sold me. The other being the delivery and attitude – and, boy, can the ladies in this cast deliver both … in spades (or in the case of the script, Bridge)!

I have had people call me brave, as a man, having to direct 20 women in a show like this. All in all though, it has been the easiest part of the how (the hardest was producing it.) I did take a lesson learned from the great director George Cukor who said that his all-star cast was volatile. He directed The Women with extraordinary skill and cunning, keeping the divergent temperaments in line by continual activity both in front and behind the camera. The on-screen face-off in a dress shop fitting room bubbled with plenty of real-life venom.” My only problem with these lovelies, in our staged version, was to keep them from laughing at each other (and a lot of them did double duty in this show either by taking backstage roles or by taking on up to four different roles in the show!) I also didn’t have to deal with the over 130 speaking parts (as in the movie) all for women, books only by women authors, photographs, artworks, or even the animals in the film were all female. (We have one male show in the show…can you spot him?)

Claire Booth Luce often defended herself against charges of misogyny, saying the play never intended as a condemnation of all women.” I did NOT like these women. I liked them so little that I put them into this small Doomsday Book, in order to rid myself once and for all of their hauntingly ungracious images…” I, on the other hand, adore every character in this show and the women who play them. The costumes, cat fights, the crying, the laughs, and the most of all the script will always and forever hold a place in my heart! The ladies who brought them to life in our staged version will forever have my gratitude for bringing it to life for me!

Cast

  • Jane: Irene Molnar
  • Sylvia (Mrs. Howard Fowler): Lori Muhlstein
  • nancy (Miss Blake): Mary-Anne Sullivan
  • Peggy (Mrs. John Day): Julie Cameron
  • Edith (Mrs. Phelps Potter): Leslie Ann Ross
  • Mary (Mrs. Stephen Haines): Eliza Kelley
  • Countess Flora de Lage: Mary Brick
  • 2nd hairdresser: Christine Lowry
  • 1st Hairdresser: Kirsten Burt
  • Miriam Aarons: Heather Plank
  • Olga: Lisa Nichols
  • Pedicurist: Jessica Silver
  • Mrs. Fordyce: Holly Czuchna
  • Little Mary: Laura Kline
  • Mrs. Morehead: Ellen Young
  • 1st Salesgirl: Kirsten Burt
  • 2nd Salesgirl: Sallie Willows/Candi Baker
  • Head Saleswoman (Miss Shapiro): Holly Czuchna
  • Negligee Model (Miss Myrtle): Kirsten Burt
  • 2nd Saleswoman: Christine Lowry
  • Crystal Allen: Robin Zerbe
  • Corset Model: Jessica Silver
  • Princess Tamara: Carol Watson
  • Instructress: Penny McKee
  • Maggie: Carolyn Cameron
  • Miss Watts: Penny McKee
  • Miss Trimmerback: Carol Watson
  • Nurse: Carol Watson
  • Lucy: Sallie Willows/Candi Baker
  • Helene: Lisa Nichols
  • 1st Cutie: Kirsten Burt
  • 2nd Cutie: Sallie Willows/Candi Baker
  • 1st Society Woman: Penny McKee
  • 2nd Socoety Woman: Christine Lowry
  • Cigarette Girl: Jessica Silver
  • Sadie: Holly Czuchna
  • Dowager: Carolyn Cmeron
  • Debutante: Lisa Nichols

Crew

  • Producer: Scott Olson
  • Director: Scott Olson
  • Assistant Director: Katherine Bisulca
  • Stage Manager: Don Petersen
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Zack Fletcher
  • Deck Manager: Sarah Barlow
  • PWLT Technical Director: Jarrett Baker
  • Hylton Technical Director: Kevin Smith
  • Set Design: Jarret Baker
  • Master Carpenter: Bob Baker
  • Set Construction: Bob Baker, Jarret Baker
  • Set Painting: Barbara Baker, Bob Baker, Jarret Baker, Cast
  • Set Dressing: Sabrina Chandler, Ken Klayton, Pat Jannell, Scott Olson, Leslie Anne Ross
  • Properties: Pat Jannell
  • Light Design: Ken & Patti Crowley
  • Sound Design: Tom Nichols, Scott Olson
  • Costume Design: Sabrina Chandler, Susy Moorstein, Claudia Tameris
  • Hair, Wig, andd Make-up Design: Mary-Anne Sullivan
  • Fight Choreographer: Kevin Robertson
  • Running Crew: Sarah Barlow, Zach Fletcher, Matt Hollands, Pat Jannell, Max Nichols, Tom Nichols, Samantha Reau
  • Poster/Playbill Design: Mary Brick
  • Publicity: Sandra Schillinger, CanaWade, Cast/Crew, Facebook, Hylton Performing Arts Center
  • Box Office Manager: Hylton Performing Arts Center
  • House Manager: Hylton Performing Arts Center

Disclaimer: Prince William Little Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review. PWLT also purchased advertising on the ShowBizRadio.net web site, which did not influence this review.

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started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.

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