“The Women” Overstay Their Welcome
By Tom Titus
Whatever you may think of “The Women,” Claire Booth Luce’s 1936 all-female ensemble comedy, you must admit it has staying power. After being filmed in 1939, it was revived twice on Broadway in 1973 and 2001 before another movie version in 2008.
Currently, the show is being staged at the Westminster Community Theater in a three-hour production that’s about an hour too long. There are gems to be mined in this vintage comedy, but finding them requires some time-consuming effort.
Fidelity, or lack of it, is the overall theme of this chat fest in which 16 actresses, some playing multiple roles, dissect their husbands (who aren’t seen), their rivals and each other. Societal references are, quite naturally, from the mid-1930s, and any modernization would be verboten.
The central figure is one Mary Haines (Jamie Sowers), who appears to be ensconced in a perfect marriage – until her friends’ claws come out and expose the fact that Mary’s hubby has a wandering eye. As time goes on (and on), other ladies in the company find their marriages crumbling as well.
The role of Mary is written as bland on bland, and Sowers accentuates it with her one-dimensional portrayal. Her best moments are in loving scenes with her sweet little daughter (Jacquelyn Desloge), but she manages to thrust an exclamation point on her character before the final fadeout.
Earning top honors for a lusty, razor-witted performance is Elizabeth Desloge, who not only one-ups her comrades verbally but, in one instance, physically as well in a rousing cat fight. Desloge plays Sylvia, one of Mary’s close friends, who delights in upsetting marital applecarts until her own is dislodged.
As the feline vixen who uncouples both Mary and Sylvia, Tawney Lewis also is excellent, though her actions as a black woman in the mid-Thirties are somewhat questionable. Megan Tice is a bright spot as the young bride Peggy.
Also impressive are Monica Valladares as another bridge-playing buddy who’s perennially pregnant and Elaine Domino as an aging countess (by marriage) turned into a cowgirl (by circumstance).
Two veteran actresses with hundreds of stage credits between them – Laurie Robbins and Beth Titus – draw supernumerary duty with three roles apiece, heightening the comedy factor. Toni Beckman is fine as Mary’s placid mother, while Tanya Court doubles neatly as a titled model and a femme fatale.
Directed by Brandon Ferruccio, who also designed the multi-set show, “The Women” functions as a theater history lesson and an opportunity for a number of actresses to show their stuff. They’d show it to greater advantage had the script been excised by about one-third.
“The Women” plays weekends through May 31 with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. at the Westminster Community Theater, 7272 Maple St., Westminster. Call (714) 893-8626) for further information and reservations.
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