Women of Manhattan
Written by John Patrick Shanley
Directed by Will Warren
The Iron Jaw Company
's revival of Women of Manhattan
is an intriguing production of John Patrick Shanley
) hyper-literate drama, which may not have aged well but remains vivid and resonant.
The play follows three women in different stages of relationships, none of whom are satisfied with their lot. Rhonda Louise is reeling from a breakup and, as played by Kitty Lindsay, seems on the verge of a nervous breakdown, which she suppresses by focusing on her friends until a climatic torrent of emotion. Billie (Teresa Reynolds) is mired in a marriage that may not be loveless, but at least seems devoid of much interest or joy. She cheats, and concocts elaborate fantasies where she's a movie star, a nun, an inventor. "I just wish that my existence was more picaresque," she sighs.
Finally, there's Judy (Erica Linderman), who reluctantly agrees to a blind date. Her ambivalence is showcased in the visual contrast whereby she initially refuses the date in formless men's wear, but then shows up in what's essentially a prom dress. The struggle between Judy's cynicism about romance and her desire for it drives the play, and Linderman understands her to the ground, finding nuance in what could have been a caricature.
But all three women are excellent, finding the tricky balance in sounding natural with dialogue intentionally written to be overtly theatrical. Loren Dunn and Luis Padilla, as Billie's husband and Judy's date, are similarly strong in their brief roles, convincingly conveying lives beyond their cameos.
Even for a playwright, Shanley pays close attention to the way people speak. That somewhat backfires here, as issues that must have seen daring in the show's original production in 1986 now show their age. The word "fag" is bandied about, and it's difficult for modern ears to not hear it as a slur even if Shanley didn't intend it to be. I'm also skeptical at the reaction one character has to an instance of spousal abuse, which seems more like a writer's response than a person's.
Nonetheless, Iron Jaw has here a work of great subtly and understated power, giving a lesser-known work from a master a deserved return to the spotlight.
(Note: a portion of the play's proceeds go to Dress for Success, a charity that provides career services for impoverished women. Photo credit: Rick Poston)