in association with
Chashama and Cherry Lane Theatre
The Civilians in
By ANNE WASHBURN
Dixon Place at Chashama, February 6 – 29, 2004
Directed by ANNE KAUFFMAN
Sets ALEXANDER DODGE
Lights GWEN GROSSMAN
Costumes SARAH BEERS
Sound MIKE FRANK
Visual Artist MICHELLE MEMRAN
Choreographer KARINNE KEITHLEY
Musical Director KRIS KUKUL
Stage Manager RACHEL FACHNER
Press Representative JIM BALDASSARE
Anne Kauffman – Jennifer R. Morris
Anne Washburn – Jennifer Dundas
Jiang Qing (Madame Mao), Radio Player, Nina – Nina Hellman
Elena Ceauşescu, Wang Guangmei, Quincy, etc. – Quincy Tyler Bernstine
Eva Perón, Red Guard, Torvald, Maria – Maria Striar
Imelda Marcos, Red Guard, Alison, etc. – Alison Weller
Maria Dizzia – Voice of Dovie Beams
Damien Baldet – Voice of Ferdinand Marcos
In a new work that falls somewhere between inspired and pretentious, playwright Anne Washburn and director Anne Kauffman have created a production, THE LADIES, that examines four notable first ladies, and also includes Washburn and Kauffman as integral characters onstage, mapping the development of the very play we are watching.
What came as a surprise with this play is that THE LADIES is not so much about the ladies (Perón, Mao, Marcos and Ceauşescu), as it is about Kauffman and Washburn’s views of them. Here, as we view reenactments of the creative team meeting over coffee, drinks and the like, we watch the first ladies deliver discourse about themselves, portray scenes from both Ibsen’s "A Doll’s House" and Tolstoy’s "Anna Karenina," and listen to audio recordings of the company discussing the subject matter. It is this blending of eras, genres and media that make the project ambitious. It is the ultimate lack of a crystallized viewpoint, and the fact that by the end we learn more about Ms. Kauffman and Ms. Washburn than we do about any of the four first ladies that also makes THE LADIES lean just a tad toward pretentious.
There are saving graces here, and they are the actors, who handle the material well and with alternating moments of strength and humor, as the script requires. The costumes are suitably presidential, and so forth, and good use is made of the limited, central performance area. There is also the melodic addition of song, that while extraneous, generally speaking, did heighten the sense that THE LADIES is, after all, rooted in the land of make believe even as it portrays charismatic characters from recent and real life.
So, no, not a boon to the annals of dramatic biography, THE LADIES as a work in progress, is rather respectable theatricality. Take it for what it is, and you will not be disappointed.
- Kessa De Santis -