“The Women”

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
August 22, 1986

“The Women” is a hysterical, satirical look at women living in a man’s world during the 1940s.

Everything about the play is quick and breezy.  The all-female cast from By Any Other Name Theater Company tackles the fast-paced and clever script with the same ease they manage the countless costume changes during the two-hour-plus show at Paladium Productions.

The heroine of “The Women” is Mary (Gail Kingsley), the wealthy but neglected wife of a well-to-do stockbroker.  From a garrulous gossip, she learns that her husband is having an affair with a young, blond bombshell.  Hurt and feeling betrayed, Mary seeks advice from her mother.  A man has affairs because he is insecure about himself, her mother tells her.  Live with it. But Mary decides to file for a divorce anyway.

Though the play is set more than four decades ago, the theme is timely. No matter how far women have come since then, society’s emphasis on youth and beauty still has precedence over intelligence and talent.

“Practically nobody misses a clever woman,” one of Mary’s friends tells her.  “A woman is compromised the day she’s born,” says another. “A lot of independence you can have on a woman’s salary,” says a third. But perhaps the best line is, “This is a man’s world, and the sooner our girls learn, the better.”

Kingsley plays Mary not as a martyr, but as a fighter who eventually wins back her man.  Kingsley has a regal countenance and exudes a soft, understated elegance.  Playing her snide, smug, two-faced friend,  Ellie Weingardt is perfect.  Every line that comes from her mouth is a gem, and her facial expressions say what words cannot.  Eventually Weingardt’s back-stabbing lies get her into a fight that puts Alexis Colby and Krystle Carrington to shame.

Cyndi Kubeck gets to play two vastly different characters — a naive, wealthy young woman who decides to get a divorce after her poor husband wants to use some of her savings to buy a car, and a narcissistic model.

Then there’s the Countess, a cherubic-looking bon vivant who’s fond of speaking bad French about l’amour and acquiring husbands, her latest a cowboy who has an affair behind her back and then dumps her once he makes it to Hollywood.  P.K. Doyle plays her with self-effacing humor, and her anything-but-regal entrance in the beauty parlor is a show-stopper.          The beauticians who tell the 45-year-old Countess she doesn’t look a day over 40 are right on the money, from the way they walk to the way they flatter to the way they roll their eyes at one another.

And as the other woman, Helene Augustyniak is superb.  A knockout from the word go, Augustyniak is a cool, heartless woman who loses her upper-class accent as quickly as she does her temper.  Her confrontation with Kingsley at the end of the production is tension-filled, with each woman waiting for the other to call her bluff.

If there is one fault with “The Women,” it’s that all the characters can’t be given the same amount of stage time as the principals. 


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