WENDY MACLEOD’S NEW PLAY BRINGS
A DASHING HANDSOME DOCTOR TO DELIGHT LOCAL
HOUSEWIVES AND ANY COUGAR HE MEETS.
Witty housewives of a certain age are drinking wine and are hilarious this winter at CenterReps production of WOMEN IN JEOPARDY. Writer Wendy MacLeod’s (The House of Yes) clever take on some mad housewives is unexpected fun and is now on stage at the Margaret Lesher Stage in Walnut Creek Ca. through Feb25th. Directed by the adventurous Michael Butler, he always brings the best to the Dean Lesher Center of the Arts. The laughs are nonstop in MacLeod’s play that is celebrating its Northern California premiere. It first opened at the Geva Theatre in Rochester, N.Y.in 2015 and was a hit. The story comes at us fast and furious, and never lets up as it references many Hollywood films including “Silence of The Lambs” and “Thelma and Louise”.
It opens with longtime friends Jo played by the wonderful Jamie Jones and Mary played by the hilarious award winning Lynda DiVito gossiping about the new neighborhood boy friend. Set in an Utah upscale home,their friend Liz played by the sharp Elisabeth Nunziato dashes into to join in on a bottle of wine and gossip. The topic is Liz’s new boyfriend who’s so smitten with the dentist, Jackson, played by the keen Jason Kuykendall that she is blind to his eccentric ways. Divorcees Mary and Jo are suspicious of the dentist boyfriend, he's not just a bit creepy but he may be a serial killer. The two housewives put aside their wine glasses and turn to their suburban detective skills. Two perfect millennials join the story Sarah Brazier and Eric Carlson as Liz’s sexy daughter, Amanda, and the local snowboard boy, Trenner. The two have perfect comic timing. The first act also teams Carlson with DiVito as Tanner falls for a cougar.
The film references in the script bring back the classic noir film “Jeopardy” with Barbara Stanwyck, and Jodie Foster confronting Hannibal Lecter. But the women in this comedy are aware that they are not heroes or femme fatales in distress. Yet their attempts to rescue each other makes this romp full of laughs and the sold out opening night audience was hysterical the whole two hours. Director Butler along with choreographer, Jennifer Perry, designed some show stopping scene change lip sync dance transitions that are a treat to watch. As the fast paced lines shoot out of MacLeod’s script “I have a porn body” so do the clever scene changes dance and hip hop jams get us to the next scene as cast members show off their dance and lip sync skills. Perry’s clever dance transitions for each blackout and scene change are a highlight of this production.
This is a comedy about women of a certain age, and MacLeod has written three brilliant roles for actors over 40. The humor is not predictable jokes, as the script makes fun of domestic suburbian life. “We’re the divorced women doing fun runs and book clubs!” She’s also written two great millennial characters for contrast to the women, and they are very funny. Carlson fits into Bethany Deal’s costumes well in his slacker wear and authentic wigs. Deal’s costumes are excellent on Brazier, as she highlights Amanda’s curves and bust in wonderful winter wear. But Jo’s look on stage is plush with scarves and layers; she is elegant even in her camping look.
The plot launches from the imaginations of two of the women, they begin to believe that Jackson is a serial killer. Between rounds of good old-fashioned grumbling, the two amateur sleuths, add the perfect MacLeod writing with their comic, superb, wisecracking housewives. Jackson has been questioned by the police, and Mary and Jo go into full rescue mode. Liz wants her 19-year-old daughter, Amanda, to bond with Jackson, so they’re headed to the woods for a weekend camping trip. With the possible murderer alone with the trusting Amanda, Jo and Mary go to the cops where they present their “evidence” to detective Kirk also played by Kuykendall. The double casting is a great sight gag that works well and Kuykendall’s excellent body language for both men is super.
It is all great, fast, silly fun directed with precise comic timing by Butler and his creative team. DiVito as Mary is a dynamo onstage for nearly all the two hours of action, she’s a awe inspiring physical comic who keeps the audience giggling. The wisecracks, insults and finger pointing in Mary’s kitchen and at the campsite are all on point, keeping the witty lines and sight gags all funny and side-splitting.
Richard Olmsted’s sets and David Leonard’s lighting design are both standouts and the set pieces move on and off stage with ease. Leonard’s lights include a skyscape of lights that open up the night skies for the camping scenes. Sound Designer Jeff Mockus had the challenge of creating some intense off stage sound effects and a great music mix for the unforgettable scene changes. This cast is ideal and Wendy MacLeod’s script is one of the funniest new works I have seen the past couple of seasons. Brighten up your winter with this new quirky company of hilarious, adventurous cougars and perfect right on millennials and a lovable creepy dentist. Bring your own wine glasses and prepare for some nonstop laughter and fun.
CENTER REP PRESENTS
Women in Jeopardy!
By Wendy MacLeod
Directed by Michael Butler
With: Sarah Brazier, Eric Carlson, Lynda DiVito*, Jamie Jones*,
Jason Kuykendall*, and Elisabeth Nunziato*
Through: February 25th
The Margaret Lesher Theatre
Lesher Center for Performing Arts,
1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek
Running time: 2 hours one intermission
Tickets: $37-$63; 925-943-7469, www.centerrep.org
Photos by: www.kevinberne.com