‘The Women’: wise, witty and wonderful
by Charlene Baldridge
Published - 10/17/08 - 09:14 PM | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kathleen McElfresh as Crystal Allen and Kate Baldwin as Mary Haines in The Old Globe’s production of “The Women,” through Oct. 26.
Kathleen McElfresh as Crystal Allen and Kate Baldwin as Mary Haines in The Old Globe’s production of “The Women,” through Oct. 26.
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Having experienced a packed theater at the Old Globe’s production of Clare Booth Luce’s 1936 social satire, “The Women,” Wednesday, Oct. 1, and having observed houses only half-full elsewhere in recent weeks, it is apparent that word of mouth says, “Spend your entertainment dollar here.” Word of mouth speaks the truth.

This intelligent and hysterically funny production, staged with wit and glee and deep understanding by Globe resident artistic director Darko Tresnjak, is perfectly cast with 15 elegant and accomplished actors (no men appear) who certainly know their way around an era.

Moreover, the production team — scenic designer David P. Gordon, costume designer Anna R. Oliver, lighting designer Matthew Richards, sound designer Paul Peterson and music director Ron Colvard — knocks itself out to create a visual and aural feast. The costume budget alone might account for the entire yearly budget of one of the city’s struggling theater companies. Such indulgence on the part of one of San Diego’s top theaters may be the palliative needed for these troubled times, and so, arts lovers, indulge yourselves. Before the evening ends, everyone sings, and so will you.

Tresnjak firmly fixes “The Women” in time, beginning and ending each act with period music sung by musical theater veteran Nancy Anderson, who then steps into the action as protagonist Mary Haines’ friend, Miriam.

Also a veteran of numerous Broadway musicals, Kate Baldwin portrays Mary, whose husband strays with a blonde shop girl (Kathleen McElfresh), whom he sets up in an apartment. All of Mary’s friends are wise, but a manicurist spills the beans. Mary’s mother (Linda Gehringer, who lends just the needed ballast) wisely advises Mary to say nothing and do nothing, but Mary listens instead to her more experienced friends, the ruthless Sylvia (Heather Ayers), Nancy (Amanda Naughton), Peggy (Amanda Kramer) and Edith (Amy Hohn). Ruth Williamson is spot-on as the much-married Countess de Lage, and child actor Kayla Solsbak is fine as Little Mary, the one truly affected by her parents’ divorce.

The supporting company — Mary-Pat Green, Jenn Harris, Aaryn Kopp, Aimee Nelson and Blair Ross — is marvelous and provides some of the production’s most delicious visual gags in a variety of roles that include the women’s hairdressers, couture store models, saleswomen, maids and attendants. Pay attention: dresses sometimes reappear on other women.

Luce’s comedy is definitely a period piece, a time in which wealthy, pre-World War II socialites are as if trapped in amber, economically dependent; expected to act in proscribed ways; and slaves to their class and role expectations.

One experience of Tresnjak’s brilliant production may not be sufficient. It is not only beautiful, it is wise.

“The Women” continues at 7 p.m. Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays; 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, through Oct. 26 at the Old Globe Theatre, Balboa Park. For tickets and information, visit www.theoldglobe.org or call (619) 23-GLOBE. n
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