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Off Broadway Reviews

Women

Theatre Review by Howard Miller


Lydian Blossom, Abby Rosebrock, Layla Khoshnoudi, and Rachel Lin.
Photo by Daryl Daley.

Winter may still have us in its grip, but the first signs of spring are starting to pop up: the occasional breath of warm weather, magnolia trees in bloom, hordes of robins out worm hunting in the fields around town. And then, of course, there are the theater troupes readying themselves for summer's fringe festivals.

I just had my first sighting of one of the latter at the PIT, a zippy little comedy called Women, written by Chiara Atik and based on the premise that the March sisters in Louisa May Alcott's classic nineteenth century family novel Little Women (Jo, Amy, Beth, and Meg) were the prototypes for such modern fare as the hit HBO show Girls. Indeed, Ms. Atik, writing for the entertainment mag Vulture, pressed her case that "were the March sisters to trade hoopskirts for rompers, they would probably be able to pass for Hannah, Marnie, Shoshanna, and Jessa, the four protagonists of Girls."

The fast-paced (50 minutes) Women, a goofy sendup of Little Women, is having a brief run here before heading out to the Hollywood Fringe. The PIT (Peoples Improv Theater) is the perfect venue for the show, which does have a feel of improvisation through its quick-flash scenes aimed at the under-30 crowd, who are encouraged to bring their beers into the theater and use their cell phones to take pictures and tweet their comments while watching.

But even those not well-versed in the ins and outs of Girls will recognize the mashup of styles of Alcott's world and our own. When the sisters are with Marmee, their loving mother, the tone is very polite and formal. When they are together, they behave like sisters everywhere: at varying times chatty, gossipy, competitive, sharing, supportive, and self-absorbed.

Ms. Atik is a caricaturist, using quick pen strokes to endow each of her characters with specific personality traits to make them uniquely identifiable. Jo is the tomboy/lesbian feminist writer; Amy is the sensitive artist with a penchant for limes; Meg is the ditzy blonde who believes she wants the traditional life of marriage and motherhood; and Beth┬Śwell, she's the one with the constant and annoying (to her sisters) cough. (SPOILER ALERT: as we enter the theater, we see a projected image on a screen, with the heading #Bethdies) .

Women is less a flowing play than it is a series of short comic scenes, played out almost the way that an old style radio serial might, with a short burst of music between each segment. While it is definitely played for laughs, there is actually an emotional core to it as the girls grow up, go out into the world, and join up with some pretty decent men┬ŚMeg's Mr. Brooke, Amy's Laurie, even Jo's unexpected pairing with Professor Bhaer, who befriends her during her stay in New York (where they attend a rave and dance to Icona Pop's "I Love It.")

The members of the cast have absorbed their idiosyncratic bits of shtick and perform them to the hilt under Stephanie Ward's direction. Like Fannie Brice in Funny Girl, Rachel Lin as Beth is a "natural cougher," Layla Khoshnoudi as Jo struts around the stage like the dude she sees herself to be, and Lydian Blossom is the affectionate-from-a-distance artist. Best of all is Abby Rosebrock, who has found a touch of real truth in Meg, who learns that there is more than a little drudgery in the day-to-day life of a wife and mother. The rest of the cast (Vicki Rodriguez as Marmee, Bradley Anderson as Mr. Brooke, Zac Moon as Laurie, and Stephen Stout as Professor Bhaer) do a fine job as well, with Brett Epstein taking on several smaller comic roles. (I especially like the bit when he turns up suddenly as the sisters' brother, "Carl March," acting as if he'd been there all the time.)

By the time the cast hits us with a Christmas homecoming and a round of "Ding Dong Merrily On High," you might find yourself surprisingly touched at the way the "girls" have grown into women.

After that, all that's left to do is to wish everyone well as they head out to the Hollywood Fringe!


Women
Tuesday nights at 9:30 pm through May 6
The PIT (The Peoples Improv Theater), 123 East 24th Street.
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: brownpapertickets.com


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