by Joni Fritz
directed by Lynne Taylor-Corbett
El Portal Mainstage
through November 2
Joni Fritz's Girl's Room, with its strictly female cast and powder pink set, is about three generations of women in a small, but dysfunctional family. Sound typical? Just another episode of, say, The Golden Girls slanted toward the impossible mother/daughter relationship syndrome? Hardly. A Jewish Steel Magnolias? No! There is no sentimentality to be found, period! Unpredictable to the core, it could hardly be considered your typical sitcom-like comedy. Girl's Room is a refreshingly real play... with substance: a dramedy, with deeply intense moments of reflection for its three stars and a surprise dance sequence for two of them that is guaranteed to captivate and thrill.
Kate Silver's (Rebecca Mae Palmer) sudden accident that puts her in a wheelchair with a fractured knee on the day of her latest performance in dance sets the scene. Concerned, more for her daughter's future as a dancer, Marilyn Silver (Donna McKechnie), a former pro dancer, takes Kate back home under the guise of R&R. Her little girl's cozy bedroom is full of the trophies and ribbons that have made her a local dance phenomenon. Stimulation? No. They bring back memories for Katie that do not relieve her misery. Enter grandma Flo (Carol Lawrence), who had flown in anyway to attend the performance, and with her, increasing discomfort. Tensions and misunderstandings between Flo, still the party girl, and Marilyn, who she refers to as a square, just add more fuel to the fire of a 24-hour conflict that does produce a few meaty revelations, some painful, others quite amusing.
The ladies, out of boredom, participate in a Blackjack game, kind of like strip poker in
which the winner must ask the lady of her choice to reveal a deep dark secret. Flo's first one about dancing naked in her own bedroom is hilarious - and this leads to a dance number led by Flo with Marilyn right behind her - that is loaded with vigor and style. A terrific scene to admire: both Lawrence and McKechnie let it all hang out and still move remarkably, after all these years.
Both actresses have a field day with their roles: they are funny, especially Lawrence as the teasing and persistent Yiddisha grandma. McKechnie shows a beautiful warmth as Marilyn, struggling to understand Katie's motivations and to come to terms with her own failings and those of her all too chummy mother. Palmer, in her first Equity role, holds her own with the two legends. She is completely believable as the stubborn, rebellious, and confused Kate, who, like her mother, is trying desperately to find her place in the world. The three actresses display dazzling chemistry and make the evening a memorable entertainment and keen celebration of life.
Super kudos to director Corbett, who really knows how to keep the pace rolling, to Matt Scarpino Design for the pretty girlish bedroom in pink and to Jennifer Caprio for her colorful costumes, Flo's loud and flashy loungewear in particular.
5 out of 5 stars
I have included two blog spots below on the after-party for the gala opening of Girl's Room.
It was delightful to see the multi-celebrity audience react glowingly to the play and to Carol Lawrence and Donna McKechnie's performances, not to mention the disbelief that this is Rebecca Mae Palmer's first Equity performance. It justifies my feelings that actors really do appreciate good work from their fellow actors. To quote Joanne Worley, "Weren't they wonderful?!"
This is a short but worthwhile engagement; try not to miss it and spread the word!!!!!!!!!!!!!