‘Women’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by June 10, 2016

‘Women’ is an uproarious, fast-paced, present-day send-up of the timeless classic, ‘Little Women’ as imagined by New York playwright, Chiara Atik in her 2000 play. Atik is most famous for her saucy writing, producing books like her first novel ‘Modern Dating: A Field Guide’ that was published in 2013. She also wrote articles that featured in ‘Glamour’ magazine and ‘Cosmopolitan’.

She is also a member of Ensemble Studio Theater’s Youngblood, a group of emerging playwrights under the age of 30.

This 80-minute (no interval), Black Martini Theatre’s production can be seen for a sensible ticket price, in Murdoch University’s Studio 411, opposite car park 4 in Murdoch University, South Street, Murdoch. The curtain rises at 7.00 pm each evening, until Saturday 11th June.

 

Thomas Dimmick’s lounge room set design was representational of the New England 18th century wood panelled rooms. There was a patio window with a rod curtain. In the corner was a toy box. Central stage was an Axminster runner carpet with several beautiful antique chairs.

Stage manager Rebecca Dilley, assisted by Sean Wcislo had one of the best stage teams I have seen in months. Even with major pieces of furniture, each member was totally focused and moved onto the stage, placed or removed the props and left, with no scene change taking more than 3 or 4 seconds. Superb work.

 

       Mrs March, Marmee (Maddy Jolly Fuentes) has gathered her four daughters in the sitting room. She tells them how their father had been wounded in the Civil War, and that she must go to his side. The girls’ faces showed their devastation at the news, however, when their mother left the room the mood changed.

      Happy but sickly Beth (Virginia Cole) coughs into her handkerchief and sets off to see elderly Mr Lawrence (Michael Casas) in an attempt to borrow money to pay for her mother’s trip.  Uncaring and self-centred, thirteen year old Amy (Claire Tebbutt) immediately complains about the economies that will be required to pay for the mother’s ticket. Meg (Cat Perez) starts to fantasise about meeting a man, because in their remote home she has never even met one.

      Meg decides that they should put on a play to cheer themselves up. Bolshie and politically inclined Jo (Shannen Precious), being the most verbose and snide, is insistent on playing the male part. Then like a gift from God, handsome, alluring Laurie (Hock Edwards) appears, Meg is excited, could this be her big chance? Unfortunately, Laurie sets off to travel the world. The family receive a visit from John, sorry, ‘call me Mr Brooke’ (Matthew Abercromby) – Meg is happy again.

     When the dashing German Professor Bhaer (Will Moriarty) arrives, Jo shuns his attentions. Will she never marry?

 

As you may gather, this play is NOT a version of Louisa May’s Civil War novel, ‘Little Women’, it is more of an anti-play. It mocks the mellifluous overtones of the original, being full of dry, sarcastic and disrespectful humour, in a superbly written, acerbic script.

Director, Jessica Serio, has presented a first-class comedy, by selecting a magnificent cast who fully understand the subtleties of the author’s writing. Jess has staged the play as though it were a BBC tv series, complete with fine costumes (costume design – Anna Weir) and clever lighting (design – Kiah Van Vlijmen). The choice of background music and sound effects by designer Tijana Šimić are perfect.

The cast enunciate and deliver their lines as would be expected for the original, but the brazen attitude of the daughters, and their outlook on life, is very much contemporary. The sisters can be real bitches to each other. The understated, almost throw away delivery coupled with a perfect pace, added greatly to the zany situation.

This is one of the funniest plays in months that works particularly well because of the skilled team presenting it.