2017-08-16 / Arts & Entertainment News

Screw the mid-life crisis. Let’s solve some crimes!

ARTS COMMENTARY

Liz has broken one of the major unspoken rules of Girls’ Night Out.

She’s brought a guy with her.

And not just any guy, but Jackson, a creepy dentist who is socially inept, to say the least.

But Liz is so crazy in love, she’s blind to his faults and to her friends’ dislike of him.

She doesn’t even realize what a faux pas she’s made, bringing Jackson to an event when it’s supposed to be just the three friends: Jo, Mary and Liz for Chardonnay Tuesday, their night out.

“He is crazy about teeth,” Liz gushes. She also boasts that he has “a harem of hygienists.”

Mary and Jo are not as impressed.

They question Liz’s judgment.

“When did she become so clueless?” one wonders. “It’s not like she’s from the Midwest.”

There’s something off about Jackson, something not right.


Karen Goldberg, Liz Abbott, and Stephanie Davis star in “Women in Jeopardy.” 
COURTESY PHOTO Karen Goldberg, Liz Abbott, and Stephanie Davis star in “Women in Jeopardy.” COURTESY PHOTO One of his hygienists was recently abducted from a nearby parking lot; Jackson was the last person to see her alive.

It’s obvious the murderer couldn’t have been a woman, Jo says, explaining, matter-of-factly: “Women don’t kill strangers. They kill husbands.”

Mary and Jo suspect Jackson: Could he have killed his hygienist? Is their friend Liz in danger? And why is she letting him going on a camping trip with her teenage daughter?

And so begins Wendy MacLeod’s “Women in Jeopardy,” a loopy, endearing, clever gem of a play that’s the first in Theatre Conspiracy’s 2017-18 lineup. If this show is any indication of things to come, we’re in for a wonderful season.

You just have to love a play that uses “Screw the mid-life crisis. Let’s solve some crimes!” as its tagline.

You also have to love a play that has three women over 40 as its leads.

And what leads they are.

Florida Weekly columnist Stephanie Davis plays Liz, the ditzy woman blinded by love. She’s a little bit of a floozy, kind-hearted but not exactly the brightest bulb on the marquee. When we first meet her, she’s wearing a leopard-print top and a black skirt. When she leaves, she puts on a leopard-print jacket, a perfect visual metaphor for her personality: excess upon excess.

As one character explains, “Her hormones are in overdrive.”

Ms. Davis does a nice bit of stage work with a corkscrew while having a sexual discussion.

Liz Abbott plays Mary, the divorced librarian whose first husband turned out to be gay. Although she’s more quiet-spoken, there’s definitely a spark there. In lesser hands, this could have been a bland character, but Ms. Abbott gives us someone with layers and depth. She’s a joy to watch as she flirts shamelessly with a cop (Miguel Cintron, who also plays the creepy dentist) and when she’s clueless when a 19-year-old mistakenly believes she’s attracted to him. Ms. Abbott on stage is always an occasion for celebration.

Jo (Karen Goldberg) is Mary’s perfect foil. As the third friend in this trio, Ms. Goldberg’s character is perpetually cranky, making blunt comments with a voice so loud and caustic it could scare the paint off the walls. It’s as if she possesses no inner censors and just blurts out whatever she’s thinking with all the subtlety of a foghorn.

At one point, she gets so frustrated with Liz, she snaps, “I swear to God, she’s so stupid, she deserves to die!”

The plot also involves Liz’s daughter, Amanda (Holly Hagen), an annoying and incredibly self-absorbed young woman, and her equally oblivious snowboarding ex-boyfriend (Chance Cintron). The two play their dim-wittedness with glee. Their pronouncements about people older than themselves elicited some of the loudest audience reactions on opening night.

And this is part of the genius of Ms. MacLeod’s script: It’s ridiculous and absurd and makes us laugh, it references a number of movies (including a wickedly on-point description of chick flicks), but is also a commentary about aging in our society.

The women are in jeopardy because there’s a possible murderer loose. But they’re also in jeopardy because they’re women over 40 in a culture that worships youth, that can’t imagine women their age having sex or being romantic or doing much of anything other than baking cakes and being mothers.

Director Bill Taylor has put together the ideal cast. All six actors know how to deliver the humor of this silly but smart play. The staging in the beginning scenes seems a little stilted, as if the actors were told to be more aware of the audience than each other, but loosened up as things progressed. And Mary’s green kitchen is huge, taking up the entire length of the stage, causing the actors to do a lot of walking.

Theatre Conspiracy was packed on opening night, and if there’s any justice in this world, it should continue to enjoy large audiences for the remainder of the run.

“Women in Jeopardy” is a blast. Don’t miss it. You’ll find yourself cheering these amateur detectives on while laughing heartily. ¦

‘Women in Jeopardy’

>> Who: Theatre Conspiracy

>> When: Through Aug. 26

>> Where: The Alliance for the Arts, Fort Myers

>> Cost: $25 ($11 for students)

>> Information: 939-2787 or www.theatre@
artinlee.org

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