By MELINDA MINTON
The Women is an American play, a comedy of manners by Clare Boothe Luce from 1936. It’s billed as a commentary on the pampered lives and power struggles of various wealthy Manhattan socialites and up-and-comers, and of the gossip that propels and damages their relationships.
While men frequently are the subject of their lively discussions and play an important role in the action on stage, they’re strictly characters mentioned but never seen. An immensely entertaining, comedic depiction of romantic rivalries, toxic friendships and the myriad roles women play in society, The Women is juicy, wicked and a feast for the eyes and ears.
Contented, kindly Mary Haines, a well-off woman living in 1930s New York City, is the envy of her friends. She has a happy marriage, adorable children and a comfortable home. Unfortunately, she’s living in a fool’s paradise.
Of the subject matter, guest director Erin Murray says, “At first blush, I wanted to dismiss the story under the notion that women no longer live in a patriarchal world, spending every moment thinking about pleasing a man and championing his home, but those pressures are still very much alive.”
Murray continues, “I don’t want women to be consumed with getting married for stability and maintaining their physical appearance; rather, I want women to be able to chart their own path and establish their own definition of joy. And part of self-actualizing is accepting the struggles … The women of The Women are smart, considerate and capable of running the world. While the generation depicted in this story was not permitted that option, their insights and instincts live on in the smashing of the ceilings we are targeting today.”
The all-female cast of 15 plays a total of 36 roles. It includes a mix of Harlequin veterans and first-timers, many of whom are Olympia locals. Costumes and set pieces are essential to this sprawling production, which features multiple locations and dozens of sumptuous outfits, wigs and millinery, and much of that will be authentically vintage.
Murray says she looks forward to this aspect as well. “We will forefront the class tensions of Manhattan’s Upper East Side in the 1930s,” she promises, “while celebrating the many glamorous fashion plates that The Women offers. In short: Bring fashion week to Thurston County.”
8 p.m. Thursdays – Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays;
Oct. 3 – 26
Harlequin Productions’ State Theater,
202 Fourth Ave. E, Olympia