KPBS AIRDATE: June 3, 1992
Maybe you remember it — a talk-show spoof on Saturday Night Live. It was called “The Problems of Women,” or “Women’s Problems” or something like that. And it was an all male show. There were absolutely no women involved. They just talked pseudo-knowledgeably about, well, as they said, the problems of women.
Now, on two San Diego stages, you can learn more about women’s problems — and their little triumphs — from the woman’s perspective. One show is a new revue — with skits and songs. The other is an old satire. One is kind of toothless, but the other really has some bite.
“A… My Name is Still Alice,” at the Old Globe, is the sequel to the 1984 “A…My Name is Alice ,” a co-creation of Joan Micklin Silver and Julianne Boyd that played the Globe in 1989. The piece was so well received, and the times had gotten so much darker for the female gender, that the collaborators decided to go for “Alice II”. They had Clarence Thomas in mind, and William Kennedy Smith, and the Glass Ceiling and Roe v. Wade. So they dived in, but in my opinion, they didn’t make much of a splash.
Today’s issues, being admittedly more bitter, need to be gnawed at, not gummed to death. Most of the material is too soft; it has no edge. There are a few laughs, and a few pointed moments. But lots of sentimentality and some pointlessness, too. The highlights of the evening are the funny, sarcastic sketches on the David Souter Home for Unwed Mothers or the plight of forgotten girls in the classroom. Or the songs about Old-Fashioned Free Love and “Sensitive New-Age Guys.”
The cast of four is talented, but there isn’t all that much for them to sink their teeth into. “Alice II” is really more light entertainment than caustic commentary; if today’s issues are tough, then we need to throttle them with white-knuckled humor, not swipe at them daintily with gloved hands. Given all its new material, and 26 contributing writers, many of the targets in ” Alice ” are old — like dieting, single-parenting, and men.
Speaking of men, that’s almost all they do in “The Women.” Written in 1936 by socialite-diplomat-journalist Clare Booth Luce, you’d think this bitchy portrait of backbiting women would have faded with the fashions of the times. But both are still surprisingly in style. In their frustration at subjugation, many women still turn on their sisters. And boy, did they dress up to do it.
This is a terrific ensemble piece, with a cast of sixteen playing forty roles. The performances are varied but very solid. The real star of this show is the director, the internationally acclaimed Anne Bogart. She’s a visceral, physical director, and she’s choreographed every moment. There isn’t a wasted movement. This is a magnificent production to look at and to watch. Bogart plays both the humor and the acrimony to delicious effect. The Lyceum never looked so good.
Oh, there are slow segments; it’s a long evening. Those old songs are fine, but they take up too much time, and not all the singers are spectacular. Overall, though, this production really is, and you shouldn’t miss the work of a master — a brilliant, vibrant director with vision. Women come and go. But “The Women” is only here through the weekend.
I’m Pat Launer for KPBS radio.
©1992 Patté Productions Inc.