Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Female of the Species

Play #89 - The Female of the Species by Joanna Murray-Smith

Okay, this play was sort of hilarious. Margot is a high-profile feminist writer whose influential books have included such magnificent tomes as Men are Awful and The Cerebral Vagina. For the past 35 years, she has been a prominent voice for feminist thought, but today, she is behind on her deadline and having some pretty awful writer's block. Then, in comes Molly. At first, Molly seems to be a fan, quoting passages and commenting on how influential Margot is. It's not until she starts to get emotional and pulls a gun that she shows herself for who she really is. Molly, it turns out, believes that Margot ruined her life. Molly was given up at birth, an when she recently found her mother, she discovered that she had been a devotee of Margot's, and had followed her advice to remove all burdens from her life. She was such a devotee, it turns out, that she had died underneath the wheels of a train, clutching The Cerebral Vagina to her chest. So Molly had taken a class with Margot, hoping to understand her mother better, only she ended up becoming a devotee as well, only to eventually be crushed when Margot told her she had no talent. So she came here today to kill Margot... but not too quickly. Then, Margot's daughter Tess arrives, having become so overwhelmed by her three children that she simply walked out and left them. Tess - the domestic family woman - has been a huge disappointment to her mother, and when she hears that Margot has been sharing this not only with Molly, but with her classes, Tess is in no hurry to help free her mother from her predicament. Next up, Tess's husband Bryan arrives, looking for Tess and trying to understand why she left. Bryan is pretty dim (with some delightful malapropisms), but ultimately offers some pretty deep insights into the whole situation... something of which Molly takes ample note. After Bryan, in barges Frank, who had been Tess's cab driver from the train station, and he came to give Tess a piece of his mind. It seems she had been a lousy tipper, and an even worse listener as he poured out his story about the wife who left him because he had been too sensitive, so he's decided to be the assertive man he's always wanted to me...something of which Tess takes ample note. Finally, in strides Margot's publisher Theo, and with him, a handful of deus-ex-machinas that wrap everything up into a tidy - if a little silly - bow as everyone prepares for a nice lunch.

The conversations in this play about motherhood and idealism and the power of a public voice and the fallacies made by assuming things about ourselves or others are all pretty interesting conversations, and Murray-Smith does a nice job of floating those ideas while peppering in enough ridiculousness to keep it from getting preachy or overwrought. I worry that a performance could get a little talky, but with the right energy, it could really be a lot of fun!

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