Regional Reviews: New Jersey
Peggy and Karen Shoot for the Funny Bone in Women Who Steal
Also see Bob's review of A Seagull in the Hamptons
In two acts and fifteen scenes, Women Who Steal takes us on a more or less six hour lawless joy ride with Karen and Peggy and, in satirical fashion examines the long running battle of the sexes, middle aged female psyches (and to a lesser extent, those of the male) while very loosely poking fun at the format of such female buddy films as Thelma and Louise.
The fifty-year-old Peggy (Liz Zazzi) has concluded that Jack, her husband of twenty-three years, has been having an affair with the prettier and ten years younger Karen (Stephanie Dorian). Peggy has asked Karen to meet her for dinner. At the restaurant, Karen casually acknowledges that she has slept with Jack (just once, a few weeks earlier). The single Karen runs a successful real estate business. Fearful that she is getting old and losing her attractiveness, Karen is more concerned about another man in her life than she is about her one-nighter. Only when she sees Peggy's young daughter, Milly, at the end of the first act, will she realize the hurt that she has caused.
Peggy and Karen leave the restaurant in Peggy's car and embark on a spree. It begins with drinks at a bar where they meet Herb (all of the men in the play are played by Bill Timoney) with whom Peggy has shared a long simmering, unfulfilled passion. Their wending journey will take them to Peggy's house where the inebriated Peggy will grab a BB gun and shoot her husband Jack six times, unintentionally blinding him in one eye. Then they are off to the bedroom of Karen's not quite boyfriend Stanley, whom they kidnap. After more scenes and contretemps, there is a happy ending. Although those who remember Karen's monologue that begins Women Who Steal will know that happy endings are only delusional.
Women Who Steal is overstuffed with material, and fails to separate the wheat from the chaff. There is both wisdom and pseudo-wisdom present. And, even when the writing is strong, Carter W. Lewis often continues on well after his point has been made. The opening words spoken by the unhappy Karen (to which I just referred), depending on one's points of view, may well embody all these qualities. In part, Karen says:
The overall effect is like watching a series of "Saturday Night Live" sketches built around Peggy and Karen. In fact, some of these scenes (i.e., Herb goes to a park by a lake with Peggy and Karen) are unessential to the narrative. Still, the writing is well above that of much sketch comedy.
The following is one of the exchanges intended to show us that Peggy is from a lower class background. It's a solid example of Lewis' fine comic playwriting:
Peggy: "The Road Not Open." I always hated that poem. Fuck Carl Sandburg.
There are many more such examples. However, your response to the following abbreviated example of feminist humor, neither the best nor the worst provided by Carter W. Lewis, should give you a good feel as to whether Women Who Steal is to your taste. The words are spoken to Herb in tag team rotation by Karen and Peggy:
Inexplicably, the last ten minutes of the play are virtually devoid of laughter. Suddenly the tone of Women Who Steal shifts totally, and we are given very heartfelt speeches mostly by Peggy and Jack about love, devotion and commitment. There is a disconnect here that pulls the rug out from under the viewer without any discernible reason.
Stephanie Dorian and Liz Zazzi bring dimension to their roles without sacrificing any of the humor. Without softening the thoughtless cruelty of the thoughtless other woman, Dorian makes us see and understand Karen's own desperation. Zazzi provides comic fireworks as the BB gun toting Peggy whom you betray at your own risk. Bill Timoney provides solid support as Herb, Stanley and Jack, and in two additional roles.
The set by Charles Corcoran features about a dozen locations (including several car trips), and is both spare and handsome. It features a large screen at the rear onto which well chosen, evocative digital images are projected. The transforming lighting is by Jill Nagle.
Women Who Steal continues performances (Eves: Thurs.-Sat. 8 p.m.; Sun. 7 p.m./ Mats. Sat. 3 p.m..; Sun. 2 p.m.) through June 15, 2008 at the Lumia Theatre, 179 Broadway, Long Branch, N.J. 07740. Box Office: 732-229-3166 ; online: www.njrep.org.
Women Who Steal by Carter W. Lewis; directed by SuzAnne Barabas