If you’re looking for a play thst is smart, witty, well written, well acted, and well directed, this isn’t it.
The show is called Women and the main characters are called Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, along with their mother, insipidly called “Marmee”. Sound familiar?
It’s Little Women, but, unfortunately it isn’t Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and we all aren’t ten years old anymore. It’s playwright Chiara Atik and director Stephanie Ward who have put together this travesty and the nine mediocre actors who demolish it.
Most of the main points of the book are there, but badly rendered. Jo, the writer (Lauren Flans), and her sister Meg (Erika Rankin) race through their lines in double-time, making their speeches incomprehensible. Which is actually a good thing because most of what they have to say, plus their flat attempts at humor, are neither illuminating nor funny.
And Beth (Brigitte Valdez), who doesn’t have much of anything to say, spends her time coughing. And then she dies, which is also a good thing, since now Marmee won’t have to worry about marrying her off. In a departure from the mood of the book, however, none of the remaining sisters seems to mourn or miss her.
In another departure, Jo, who was a tomboy in the book, is characterized in the play as a lesbian. And, just in case you miss the point, when Professor Bhaer proposes to her she accepts with the proviso that he will agree to a marriage without sex.
The men in the play are somewhat better. But not by much. Clayton Farris, who loves Jo and then marries Amy, plays the next-door neighbor, Laurie, with a persistent self-satisfied smirk. Joseph Patrick O’Malley, who marries Meg, is pompous and remote. (When Meg agrees to marry him, she announces that she is “capitulating to the shackles of my gender.”) Only Professor Bhaer (Ben Moroski), with his sometime-German accent, appears to be earnest and human. And then there is, inexplicably, a brother, Carl March, played by J.B. Waterman.
As the play progresses, everyone races around a lot. And then they dance.
They have plenty of room to race and dance, since the stage is nearly bare. Whoever designed it (there is nobody credited with it on the program) apparently thought that two chairs and a bench would suffice.
As an aside, Jo expresses her desire, as a writer, to be “the voice of a generation.” Louisa May Alcott actually was. She’s probably spinning in her grave right now.
Women, however, despite my opinion, is credited with being a “record-breaking hit” from #Serials @ The Flea Theater, then was produced at The People’s Improv Theatre in New York, and was an award-winning entry at the Hollywood Fringe Festival.
Women, which opened September 5th, will appear Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 pm until October 25th at Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd. in Los Angeles.
Photo: Amy, Meg, Jo and Beth