Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Seattle

The Female of the Species Dishes Out Fast and Furious Farce at ACT Theatre

Also see David's review of Glitter & Be Gay

Suzy Hunt
Whatever deeper pretensions playwright Joanna Murray-Smith may have had while devising her comic play The Female of the Species  now playing at ACT Theatre, what she cooked up is a genial, sometimes gut-busting farce, which canny director Alison Narver and an effervescent acting ensemble enact with great brio, in a brisk and intermission-free hour and forty minutes.

Inspired by an event in the real life of feminist author Germaine Greer, Murray-Smith's protagonist Margot Mason is hold up in her gorgeous English estate (an eye-wateringly and apropos handsome set by Robert A. Dahlstrom) in the throes of writer's block, when she is subject to home invasion. Said invader, Molly, a former student of Margot's with a multi-edged axe to grind, engages in a verbal sparring match with the loquacious and self-satisfied Margot till she binds and gags her. In fairly short order, enter Margot's neglected and unsatisfied frumpy bastard daughter Tess, Tess' charmingly doltish husband Bryan, irascible and chatterbox village cabbie Frank, and near the close Margot's gayer-than-laughter longtime chum and publisher Theo, who serves to tie up a key plot element. There are gunshots heard in the course of the comic chaos, but this is a farce with an ultimately happy ending for all concerned, and a jolly good vehicle for a troupe of skilled comic actors.

Suzy Hunt commands the stage as the brittle, biting but ultimately breakable Margot. She is the closest thing Seattle has to an Elaine Stritch, yet with a dash more warmth thrown in. Quirky Renata Friedman as Molly holds her own in her sparring scenes with Hunt, and is a delightfully vital presence throughout. Morgan Rowe delights as the sad-sack Tess, and Paul Morgan Stetler just about steals the show in a droll, subtle comic performance as the hapless Bryan. Tim Hyland blusters adroitly as Frank, and Mark Chamberlain shows how to make a cameo role a standout as the twittering Theo. The cast shines brightly as both individuals and as an ensemble, eliciting steady laughs throughout.

The Female of the Species is not a play for the ages, but it delivers all the smiles of a summer night that one can rightfully ask for. And it gives us Suzy Hunt in a starring role. What more do you need? 

The Female of the Species  runs at ACT Theatre, 700 Union Street in downtown Seattle. through July 18, 2010.  For more information or tickets contact the ACT box office at 206-292-7676 or visit them online at

Photo: Chris Bennion

See the list of this season's theatre offerings in the Seattle area.

- David Edward Hughes

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