Review: Female of the Species is a feast of laughter

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Molly and Tess become such empathetic friends,
that Tess holds the gun during a massage from Molly.
Photo courtesy of The Phoenix Theatre


Female of the Species
By Joanna Murray-Smith
Directed by Eric Lewis

The Phoenix Theatre
April 14 - 30, 2017


Review by Doug Gochanour

Germaine Greer is a well-known Australian-born writer, who is regarded as a major voice of the feminist movement. She lives in the United Kingdom, where she has held academic positions at universities there. In 1970, her famous book, The Female Eunuch, became an international best seller. Greer related the traditional nuclear family life of consumerism, with its sexual repression and devitalizing effects, ultimately rendering females as eunuchs. She asserts that women are forced to assume submissive roles in society to fulfill male fantasies of what being a woman entails. Greer seems more of a liberation feminist, rather than an equality feminist.

In 2000, a 19-year-old female student was involved in an invasion at Germaine Greer’s home. The student was arrested after police received a call alerting them that the writer was being held against her will. The student was arrested and charged with unlawful imprisonment and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. 
Female of the Species is a rich comedy of dialogue and actions, loosely inspired by the real-life incident involving Germaine Greer. Similarities with this play are said to end there.

Some may say that Joanna Murray-Smith’s Female of the Species is like a debate that is masquerading as a farce. Others my feel it is more like a farce masquerading as a debate. Annette Bening became a fan of Murray-Smith’s writing, particularly the verbal exchanges in this powerfully amusing script. Bening came to know Murray-Smith personally, and was excited for her own chance to play the role of Margot.

We are fortunate to have a great cast at the Phoenix Theatre bringing this adult comedy to life.

Melanie Calderwood is featured as Margot Mason, a narcissistic feminist writer, who suffers from writer's block. Molly (Tracy Cahill) is a disgruntled former student of Margot, who arrives with a gun and handcuffs Margot to a desk. This deranged student is upset that Margot’s book, called The Cerebral Vagina, warped her mother's mind. Molly’s mother had stepped in front of a train while carrying the book. 

Debra Rich Gettleman perfectly plays a full range of emotions as Margot's daughter Tess. She arrives in time to find her mother fit to be tied, and actually tied. As she begins communicating with Molly, she surprisingly agrees with Molly that her mother should be shot. It seems that Margot writes books with ever-changing ideological certainties. When Molly was her student, Margot told Molly that she had no talent for writing.

Margot is blind to human complexities, as her ideological passions and intellectualizing get in her way. She really cares more about writing to preserve her lavish lifestyle than about the effects of her writing upon the lives of others.

When men enter the picture, things become even more complex. David Bailey plays Bryan, Tess’s husband, who just wants her to raise their kids in a loving family. Frank, a gruff, sexy taxi driver is convincingly played by Nick Horiatis. He is able to arouse Tess from her depressed state of mind. Finally, Dennis Moore arrives as Margot’s publisher, Theo.

A surprise ending awaits you, after enjoying the many plot twists. Do plan to attend this feast of laughter.

As a special note, the set includes several art pieces on loan from the Edmonds Arts Foundation. Artists include Pamela Mummy, Jackie Van Noy, Alice Owen, and Hannah Noh.

Tickets are available on the website Phoenix Theatre 9673 Firdale Avenue,  Edmonds 98020 in the Firdale Shopping Village.



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