As denizens of New York City’s Park Avenue, the play’s characters can afford to run off on consolation trips to Bermuda in the middle of the Great Depression. They play bridge, smoke cigarettes, drink tea, smoke cigarettes, take exercise, smoke cigarettes, shop for dresses, smoke cigarettes and visit Reno for the sun and divorce court. If a husband isn’t philandering, he probably has money problems.
“A woman’s paradise is a fool’s paradise,” one of them said.
Erin Woods directs the show with definite ideas about the script. The actors play it in a high-volume, mile-a-minute style that’s completely appropriate. Some of the staging appears inspired by the Ministry of Silly Walks.
The play comprises 12 scenes, and the production has a lot of schlepping props on and off stage. Some scene changes are worked into the action, but if Woods had found a creative way to simplify the staging and smooth the transitions, this could be an impressive show.
Woods also has the actors often turn to and address the audience. It’s an annoying affectation that diverts attention from the characters in the scene. A few times, actors push audience members aside and sit cheek-to-cheek on their chairs or have people handle props. You see a lot of this sort of thing in Reduxion shows, and it’s something about which reasonable people may disagree. This breaking the fourth wall seems superfluous in RTC’s congenial, in-the-round Broadway Theater, because the audience is practically part of the show anyway.
It’s hard to single out performances in the ensemble cast. Twelve actors play more than 30 roles. All are fine. Kris Schinske as Mary, Mrs. Stephen Haines, and Claire Powers as Sylvia, Mrs. Howard Fowler, are leads. Shellie Sterling (new to me) is strong as a predatory husband-stealer.
The other actors play multiple roles.
Notable are Lindsay Pittman as a mannish and unmarried author of second-rate novels and Emily Frances Brown as a child of divorce. Crystal J. Ecker capably handles six roles.
Boothe Luce’s dialog is written in an elevated style that begs quotation. Is this play really the source of the line to an often-pregnant woman, “Are you Catholic or just careless?” About her intended fifth husband, Countess de Lage (Elizabeth Ann Brooks) said, “This has taught me once and for all — you can’t expect noblesse oblige from a cowboy.”