The New World School of the Arts and Dean Patrice Bailey present Clare Boothe Luce's satirical comedy The Women. It is a treat to see the original production of The Women paid homage so nicely, especially on the heels of the recent release of the oddly altered film version. Well done!
The Woman opened on Broadway in December of 1936 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, where it ran for 666 performances. The original cast included Arlene Francis and Ilke Chase. It was revived in 1973 at the 46th Street Theatre where it ran for 63 performance. The 1973 revival cast included Myrna Loy and Dorothy Loudon. It was again revived in 2001 at the American Airlines Theatre where it ran for 77 performances. The 2001 revival cast featured Cynthia Nixon and Rue McClanahan.
A hugely popular film version of The Women was released in 1939 with a cast studded with stars such as Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, Marjorie Main and Joan Fontaine. A lukewarm musical version of the story entitled The Opposite Sex was released in 1957 starring June Allyson and Joan Collins. A modern big screen adaptation of the original was recently released for the big screen starring Annette Bening and Meg Ryan.
Set amidst the wealthy world of high society women in New York City at the height of the Great Depression, The Women deals with issues of socio-economics, marriage and divorce, and betrayal and friendship. Though no men appear in a cast of 39 female characters, it is certainly their men who are a common theme. In the story, marriages torn by infidelity and friendships damaged by gossip are fodder for a glimpse into the journey of modern women as wives, mothers, friends and individuals. Luce has wrapped it all in the wonderfully written quick-witted patter for which she was known.
Jehane Serralles is the consummate Sylvia. Her pacing and delivery are perfectly polished. Stephanie Cadaval does a good job of making Little Mary palatable, as the role is written cloyingly sweet. Elyse Fisher is believable as the man-eating Crystal clawing her way up the social food chain. Meredith Bartmon is fun as Edith, the exasperated and slightly jaded, permanently expectant mother. A sign of the time in which the play was written is an amusing scene in which Edith is smoking while nursing her newborn baby and drops an ash on its nose with nary a concern.
Betsy Graver as Mary propels the action forward without being too much the victim. Ivette Vinas as The Countess grows into her character as the show progresses, but never quite gets big enough for the role. There are enjoyable scattered character moments throughout the show. Some of the costuming by Estela Vrancovich is impeccable down to the last detail. Jehane Serralles, whose character Sylvia is a clothes horse, is surely the luckiest woman in the cast as her outfits are glorious, and she looks flawless in them.
Playwright Clare Boothe Luce wrote for stage, film and magazines, and was known for her skill with satire and understatement. In 1930 she joined the staff of the fashion magazine Vogue as an editorial assistant. In 1931, she became associate editor of Vanity Fair and began writing short sketches satirizing New York society. Her sketches were compiled and published under the title "Stuffed Shirts" in 1933. She resigned as managing editor of Vanity Fair in 1934 to pursue a career as a playwright. In addition to The Women, she wrote plays such as Abide With Me and Kiss The Boys Goodbye. She continued to write articles for Time and Lifemagazines for which her second husband, Henry Robinson Luce, was publisher.
In 1942, Clare Boothe Luce won a Republican seat in the United States House of Representatives representing Fairfied County, Connecticut, and was later appointed Ambassador to Italy. She retired from politics when her husband retired from publishing in 1964. In 1979 she was the first female to be awarded the Sylvanus Thayer Award by the United States Military Academy, and in 1983 President Reagan awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The New World School of the Arts production of The Women appeared October 10th - October 19, 2008 in the Louise O' Gerritts Theater at the New World School of the Arts. The theatre is located at 25 NE 2nd Street, in Miami, Florida. The New World School of the Arts was created by the Florida Legislature as a Center of Excellence in the visual and performing arts. It is an educational partnership of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Miami Dade College and the University of Florida. Through its partnership with the University of Florida, the New World School of the Arts is able to grant Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Music degrees. For more information on the New World School of the Arts, you may contact them by phone at 305/ 237-3541, online at www.mdc.edu/nwsa.