Monday, July 14, 2008

The Ladies Quintet: A Theater Review

I have never aspired to be a drama critic, but when playwright Kathryn G. McCarty discovered my blog and sent me a press release for the California Galatean Players Ensemble Theater's appearance in Chicago at the Raven Theater, 6157 N. Clark Street, I was honored. It's always nice to be noticed. I posted the press release for The Ladies Quintet, and yesterday I saw the matinee performance.

I was especially impressed by two things: the skill of the five mature actresses and the five monologues' presentations of many truths about aging.

The presentation includes "The Garden Club," with Carolyn Kraetsch as Rose (pictured above); "Star Polisher," with Helen Means as Tessa, "Noel," featuring Sonja Christopher as Peggy, "American Sketch," featuring the playwright Kathryn G. McCarty as Lucina, and "Real Possible," with Sheilah Morrison as Pam.

Only McCarty fails to qualify as a senior citizen, but she credits her understanding of elders to listening to the stories of older friends, mostly when she lived in Chicago. In a 2006 article in Backstage West, she also credits her fellow actresses: "My relationship with these women has shown me that life takes us in many directions, but it's never too late to pursue your dreams." She seems to have realized at an earlier stage than I did that it is, indeed, never too late.

Perhaps the most impressive actress in the group is Sonja Christopher. Her biography shows that she is a cancer survivor and also the first participant ever voted off CBS's original Survivor show. I was impressed by her mature beauty, her acting skill, and her ukelele playing, used to help her character deal with the task of sorting through the belongings of a recently-deceased friend. She makes a shocking discovery among the friend's old letters, but snaps back with a modest scheme of revenge.

Rose presides over a garden club of which she is the last surviving member; she talks to the departed members. Tessa considers her star-struck past as she polishes the Hollywood star of Joanne Woodward. Lucina, a painter, talks to a granddaughter about racial and family relationships, as she attempts to sketch her portrait. Pam talks to her deceased husband as she prepares for a date. She is full of uncertainty about makeup, wardrobe, and the wisdom of dating at her age, but she ultimately decides to go for it. All the actresses perform admirably.

This is a show well worth seeing by senior women, especially, and also by senior men and people concerned about the elderly and/or close to joining their ranks. It will make you understand and sometimes laugh at the realities of the various losses we all face.

The Raven Theater is small and lacking in the big Loop theaters' amenities, but it is reasonably appropriate and comfortable for this small show. Performances continue next weekend. See my original post at for links to more information.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

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