By Beverly Friend, PHD, Member American Theater Critics Association.
When departing the theater, the audience has the opportunity to purchase small white, cotton angels made from tampons! These—complete with wings and the requisite string perfect for hanging on Christmas trees—are on sale in the lobby of the Mizner Square Cultural Center. While the cost is $4 for one angel, two for $6 is a bargain!
If this tickles your fancy, then this is the play for you: The Secret Comedy of Women. What is revealed in this play may have been secret (perhaps to the two males in the female-heavy audience), but it is only intermittently comic.
As the story opens, playwrights/actors/co-directors Barbara Gehring and Linda Klein, sitting on a bed, scantily dressed in colorful bras and panties at a two-person slumber party, begin to unwind their innermost thoughts moving from childhood and teens into adulthood and even elderly years. The talented ladies use songs, dances, stories, film, improv, audience participation, silhouettes, and a shadow play to highlight this genetic journey which focuses heavily on diaries, breasts, puberty, breasts, marital roles, breasts, memory boxes, and breasts. Their vocal skills and energy transcend the material. Very little is subtle, and the level of humor varies, sometimes visual, sometimes verbal: “I don’t know where I lost my virginity, but I still have the box,” one says, quoting a bumper sticker.
The best scene of the first act occurs when the cast steps into the audience and persuades two women to release their handbags. This leads to a sketch on friends reuniting after years apart, mutually admiring each other’s purses, and digging into them to bestow gifts on each other. The improv is cute and clever, though one fears whether the original owners will get their belongings returned intact.
In the second act, the two, now elderly, offer various craft ideas, especially those built on menstrual products. My companion Irv plans to try the one where they give up Swiffers to attach Kotex pads to the bottom of their shoes for dusting the floor. This sketch brought his only laugh of the day.
The second act, which is faster-paced than the first, climaxes in the ballet-like contortions of the two, desperately trying to pull on their pantyhose; no one who has ever had to do this could fail to enjoy their gymnastics.
The bright moments, however, are too few and far between. The writers began with the germ of an idea in 2004. It is now 2020 and the play still needs more work to fulfill its potential. And it does have potential!
However, all is not lost. Another item for sale in the Lobby—at $5—is a more elaborate program than the free one distributed. This large, pink version of a diary supplements the comedy with the history of the play, biographies of and interviews with the actors, and a photograph and text annotation of the stage set. Some neat interactive activities include purity test questions, paper doll cutouts of the actors complete with a few outfits, purse pun facts, directions on how to throw a girls-only party—with suggested games—and craft directions, including how to make the tampon angels.
This book was worth the $5. However, I am not sure the play was worth the ticket price. But to be fair, the young women in the audience gave it a standing ovation. I, on the other hand, at age 85, exchanged significant, bemused glances with another elder—an age-appropriate usher.
THE SECRET COMEDY OF WOMEN, presented by Denver Center Attractions at the Mizner Park Cultural Center, 201 Plaza Real, Boca Raton, Florida. Jan 15 through Feb 23.Ticket prices $45-65. Tickets can be purchased online at http://playhouseinfo.com/miznerpark or by phone at 844-672-2849.