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|A CurtainUp Review
I really didn't want it to be this way. Goodby. . .No hard feelings? -- Finona
All feelings are hard -- Selma
The promotional postcard for Nena Beber's Hard Feelings features a pair of frog-green bunny slippers. According to the promotional copy for the show, those slippers have magic properties which can remedy it's main character's life crisis. I'll confess that I approached Ms. Berber's play with some reservations about such an object as an effective dramatic device -- or as a means for helping Hard Feelings live up to its label as "a screwball comedy for the millennium." If I'd known that the magic consists of intermittently restoring the memory of a woman suffering from Alzheimer's, I probably would have been even more skeptical.
Now that I've seen the play, I'm still not enamored of the idea of using a pair of cutesy slippers as a sort of dramaturgical magic wand. Nor do I lean towards humor about the dread "A " disease. Fortunately, Ms. Beber has created three characters whose comic potential is splendidly realized by Seana Kofoed as Selma the young woman with the messed up life, Kate Jennings Grant as Finola, her ship jumping lover and Pamela J. Gray as Irene a hilariously narcissistic client of her on the skids electrolysis practice. And with Mary Fogarty's nicely restrained interpretation of the forgetful and occasionally bunny-slippered Granny Gee, the Alzheimer angle is touchingly amusing rather than offensive.
Selma's career changing efforts (hypnosis, writing), her relationship with the two other women and her struggle to regain custody of her child are the axis around which the plot spins. There's also a lone man in the comedy, an insufferable writing teacher Dr. Disposio (Guy Boyd), who, true to his name, high-handedly disposes of his students manuscripts after reading just one sentence. As his students, When both Selma and Finola join his class (seems Finona who's a grief counsellor also wants a career change), they outsmart the old windbag. Kofoed and Grant carry most of the weight and humor of the student-teacher interplay and Pamela J Gray just about runs away with the whole show as the ultimate in ditzy blondes whose every moment is dedicated to looking good.
Irene's recitation based on her date book schedules is a priceless monologue: "Electrolysis once a week, waxing every three weeks until we're finished, pre extraction, glycolic acid peel once a month, streaks and roots, tim and condition, periodic major new hairstyle and color change, manicure and paraffin wax hand softening, Pilates, trainer, yoga, new exercises fad, counseling (maybe that can go), shopping, lymphatic drainage massage, shopping, high colonics, shopping, nutritionist, food diary upkeep, shopping, botox injection, shopping, yoga meditation retreat, shopping, costume shop, collagen injection --" The "costume shop" item turns out to be an "Ed thing"", Ed being the boyfriend who met her during her show-girl days and still enjoys a good costume for "play time."
Director Maria Mileaf keeps the gimmick of the bunny slippers and the play on names, especially the literally corny Finola Cornflakes, from getting in the way of the more genuinely funny dialogue. Neil Patel's set with its grass covered wall (visually echoing the first sentence of Selma's story) and sliding partial kitchen makes for brisk scene-to-scene movement towards the play's inevitably happy conclusion.