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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
The Female of the Species
Thus begins Joanna Murray-Smith's hilarious 96-minute romp, The Female of the Species, at the Geffen Playhouse. Bening rants about feminism in her deep voice. When I first saw her in Our Town at ACT in San Francisco, it seemed surprisingly off key for a young girl, but now she's grown into it and wields it with authoritative passion.
One by one the other characters enter: after Pistol-Packin' Molly, distraught at the rejection of her story by Margot and convinced that Margot has ruined her life, comes Tess (Mireille Enos), Margot's daughter, escaping from three children under 6. When she overhears from Molly some of Margot's choice epithets about her, the bile of a lifetime flows out and she's on Molly's side. This is the one role with range which brought Enos a spontaneous ovation. She goes from a woman overwhelmed with self-pity by the noise the children make to fury at her mother and a few shades in between.
Following Molly on stage is husband Bryan (David Arquette), who turns out to be as inane as Margot describes him and, surprisingly, a forceful speaker for Man. Next to arrive is Frank (Josh Stamberg), the taxi-driver who brought Tess and is irate because she didn't listen to his life story. Don't ask me how he had the guts to break in. It's all part of the general wackiness.
Last but not least, there's Theo, played by Julian Sands, so delightful in Room With A View all those years ago. He's Margot's publisher, dapperly dressed in a blue suit with scarlet touches.
Supposedly based on a true-life episode involving the noted feminist Germaine Greer, the play seems a little dated. Maybe that's why Margot is having trouble with her current book. Ultimately, she seems delighted when burly Frank, the cab-driver, suggests a whole new spin on things. The play ends with a bang.
Randall Arney directs the fast-paced comedy with a sure sense of where the laughs are. Takeshi Kata's set is conventional with a time-forgot air as if Margot set it up one day some time ago and never looked at it since. David Kay Mickelsen designed the splendid clothes from Margot's swinging vest to Tess, pretty in pink, to Frank's form-fitting white T-shirt to Theo's dapper blue and red.
The cast is excellent, despite the mostly one-note roles. But it's Bening's play. With her deep voice, slim figure and wonderful smile (which we don't see til the end), she's always in charge.
Editor's Note: As Laura feels this is Benning's play so our London critic felt what she saw was what it was because of Eileen Atkins. Clearly a diva vehicle. London review.