"The Women" (Circle Theatre): OBSCENE...Obscenely Funny!

"The Women" (Circle Theatre): OBSCENE...Obscenely Funny!

It’s hard to gossip via text.  Not impossible but not as satisfying as an in-person gabfest.  For that face to face encounter, salons are the ideal locale for *sharing* the latest news.  It’s all foot to mouth.  The pedicurist pumicing off a layer of ick directly loosens lips.   Once unleashed, a tongue can spill the dirt until the polish dries. Circle Theatre presents THE WOMEN.  Playwright Clare Booth Luce penned her tale in 1936.  The premiere was labeled obscene by critics.  The touring show was banned in several Midwestern states.  So, of course, it became a runaway Broadway hit and later a movie.   The real housewives of the 1930’s are wealthy and bored.  Their husbands cheat.  Their gal pals snipe. Mary’s friends know her Stephen is cheating.  To leak the scandal, Sylvia sends Mary to the salon.  The chatty manicurist tells all.  No longer in wedded bliss, Mary receives a range of advice from all the women in her life.  Seventy-five year later, THE WOMEN is still obscene… obscenely funny.

Read on AND LISTEN to Audio Podcast at ITUNES Chicago Theatre Reviews for Week of July 15th Facilitated by Joshua Volkers with Katy Walsh.

I laughed a lot.  THE WOMEN is funny!  A timeless comedy, Luce’s gossip-driven farce has enduring witty dialogue.  The clever content must have shocked back in the day.  These wives talk smack about their marriages.  Marrying for money, swapping husbands, getting Reno-vated, there is a hilarious nonchalance of getting hitched and unhitched.  I’m blown away by the ageless crux of the situation:  a twelve year marriage.  Stephen is tired of himself, wants to feel something new because he’s getting old.  He sees a different self in the eyes of a new woman.  Luce is a prophet because that is exactly what’s going on in my friendS’ marriageS.  Well, sometimes it’s the wife but still... the contemporary relevance is spooky!

For some of the action that is dated, Director Jim Schneider punctuates the humor by going over the top.  Hayley L. Rice (Edith) is a chain-smoking, pregnant woman.  While nursing her newborn, a gossiping Rice ashes on her baby. Hysterical!  With Lucille Ball comedic timing and presence, Sarah Pretz (Sylvia) steals every scene she is in.  In the exercise room, Pretz is slapstick fantastic.  In the servants’ quarters, Alicia Hurtado (Jane) and Toni Lynice Fountain (multiple roles) are a gossiping dynamic duo.  Hurtado animatedly describes what she overheard.  Fountain dryly zings her story with well-placed one liners.  Schneider dresses up the large cast and utilizes them to heighten the laughter.  Matching choruses of red-curled, blue-dressed beauticians and black-curled, black-skirted salesgirls pile up in scenes to eavesdrop.   All that cattiness claws its way into a terrific cat fight.

I was completely captivated by THE WOMEN. The eighteen, all-female cast stun in multiple wardrobe changes by Costume Designer Elizabeth Wislar.   The vintage visual on a revolving art deco stage, designed by Bob Knuth, is an incredible spectacle.  Wislar saves the best dresses for our heroine Jhenai Mootz (Mary).  Mootz is a model of graceful, sophistication. Within the high-energy antics of the ensemble, Mootz charms with reserve, polish and hope.  She leads THE WOMEN with a quiet empowering resilience.

I’m confirming the rumor that THE WOMEN is a summer must-see!  Missing it would be obscene!

Mrs. Joshua Bryan aka Jen B-B describes it with 'authentic, uproarious, witty.'

Running Time:  Two hours and thirty minutes includes an intermission
At Circle Theatre, 1010 Madison Street in Oak Park
Written by Clare Booth Luce
Directed by Jim Schneider
Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm & Sundays at 3pm.
Thru August 14th


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