Great costumes, slick acting help 'Women' escape film past
Reaction to Palladium Productions/By Any Other Name Theater Co.'s mounting of Clare Boothe Luce's classic '30s comedy of bitchery, "The Women," depends on whether or not one has seen the supremely funny 1939 film version. REVIEW: The priceless film adaptation starred Norma Shearer as the noble wife Mary, Rosalind Russell as her catty, gossipy friend Sylvia, and Joan. Crawford as the man, stealing Crystal, who takes Mary's husband away from her. The ghosts of Norma, Roz and Joan hang heavily over this revival; no actress can possibly be expected to duplicate the perfection of those immortal stars in the MGM movie version. Yet, John Nasca's knockout costumes (75 of them) on the show's dozen actresses (in dual roles), and some sly performances, under Jeffrey Kelly's direction, that are right on target in capturing Luce's acid comic bitchery. make this production worthy of a look-see from "Women" aficionados. Biggest yocks of the evening are earned by Ellie Weingardt as Sylvia, the ultimate gossip, who plays for camp effect and gets her laughs. Watch for Weingardt's catfight at a divorcee's ranch resort in Reno with her ex-husband's mistress (played by Jane Salutz, who has a wicked way with a line herself); her put-down laden commentary on the toiletries of Crystal (Helene Augustyniak, who could be much bitchier); and her catty remarks to her friend Mary (Gail Kingsley, looking appropriately forlorn) in a dress salon's dressing room. the dress salon sequence also allows us to savor a parade of Nasca's eye-catching, colorful costumes, which are bound to garner accolades once the local awards season rolls around. Other fun for the audience comes from watching the dozen actresses assume multiple roles and pull them off successfully. Kathryn Gallagher, who also doubles as an exercise instructor, is quite funny as the fast-talking, chatty manicurist who spreads the word about Mary's husband's infidelity. Lynn Fisher is equally convincing as a virginal writer and as Mary's young daughter.