A Round-Heeled Woman Jan. 14th, ’12

london west end

Okay, so I’m a bit ambivalent. Just a bit. But a bit.

I love Sharon Gless. I think her and Tyne Daly’s portrayal of two women detectives some 30 odd  years ago did more for feminism than many an article written by well, feminists.

Also: What’s not to love about the story of a (real life, btw!!!) woman who advertises in a literary magazine: Before I turn 67 next March, I want to have a lot of  sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me. (Trollope not being  synonymic for whore (another synonym being Round-Heeled Woman, btw) , but the name of a famous author who wrote Jane Juska’s favorite novel about a woman of the Biedermeier who comes into money and is – at 36! – all of a sudden “a catch”! And that is what Jane wants to be – a catch, after years of an unloving marriage, a divorce and teaching to overcome the loneliness of her life)

Hooray! More power to her! Even though the men she then encounters are enough to get you off sex for good. Which is one of the weaknesses of the otherwise very clever, very funny,  very shamelessly to the point play. The various men presented (and incredibly funnily so) are all more or less morons and I kept asking myself: just for a romp in the hay would I really leave my dignity at home? would I really try to do the deed with THAT? No surprise she needs KY jelly (yes, it IS that kind of play! LOL)

Because despite her fresh and catchy ad Jane of course seeks a man she LIKES, a man that accompanies her, that makes her feel whole again. Unfortunately – just as during Biedermeier, where Trollope’s heroine found out  her suitors loved her money more than herself, – Jane has to realise that in modern times men like the sex more than herself. That is until –  after a lot of false starts – Jane finally meets Graham (Michael Thomson) who – as the only one – got her Trollope remark, who makes her laugh and who openly adores and worships her. His one fault? He is 33. The age her son is now – a son she hasn’t seen in 18 years.

So in an attempt to get everything right till that magical 67th birthday she finally makes herself fall for a decent man her age – who promptly has to confess he has liver cancer – and she googles her lost son only to find that the young frustrated punk had turned into a man with a job and a wife that is pregnant. And who is willing to make a new start on the mother/son relationship. And after all this bed hopping and soul searching Jane finally does what her heroine out of Trollope’s novel tells her: she kisses her own image in a mirror – she accepts herself with all her flaws and longings – and writes another email: I’ll be in a cabin in the woods with my family for a week. then my family leaves and I am staying for another week. Would you like to come and have … me? To which Graham answers: Load yer truck, lady, here I come…

I thought the play was hilarious. there were so many brilliant one liners (Jane’s son when she confides in him about the ad: so this is Fucking against the dying of the light? I thought I’d pee myself) (or Jane’s enthusiastic, blue eyed “Everything was better in Biedermeier! Name just one thing that wasn’t!” and her current man  answers “medicine!”) all impeccably presented by Sharon Gless and her co cast, it’s hard to remember them all. I do remember laughing a lot. The men Jane meets are mostly losers, but even that is a bit like real life, where you have to kiss a lot of frogs until one – hopefully – turns into a prince. And I realise that in the compressed form of a play you have to portray them as morons, but as I said before: I wouldn’t touch most of them with a looong stick. Just me, probably.

Now onto Sharon Gless. I love her. She’s marvellous. She owns the stage. (and she’s never off it for two hours!) Every wink, every innuendo is perfectly placed, enhances the text of the play, makes you laugh at all too crass descriptions. She is a wonderful actress who is a master of the tricks of the trade.

But, like many American actors I have seen on stage, she is just that: a brilliant actress who knows exactly what to do to present a character. Just – she never becomes the character. She stays sort of detached while exercising her part with brilliant precision. There is a scene where she is crying… there was not one tear shed. Her eyes didn’t even start to glitter in the light. I had been to Haunted Child the night before where both Ben Daniels and Sophie Okonedo shed very real tears in their creation of their parts and their inner struggles  and yet, when I talked to Ben afterwards and told him how much I admired his ability to go through this roller coaster of emotions every night, sometimes twice, he said, awww, that’s just tricks of the trade. Indeed, I’d just never guessed by watching him or Ms Okonedo. I definitely guessed while watching Sharon Gless.

Now this didn’t take away (much) from the enjoyment of watching the play. But the final bit, that bit where you sit in your seat and can’t decide to clap yet because you don’t want to break the magic, THAT bit – that was missing.

stagedoor

not missing, unfortunately, were the stage door sharks at Gless’ play. Hadn’t had the decency to watch the show, but had her sign numerous pics of her in Cagney & Lacey. And the very same sharks then came over to Haunted Child to pester Ben Daniels to sign pics of him as Tristan. I find that really appalling. No wonder Gless did not sign in person, but had her assistant bring stuff inside.

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