6 Women With Brain Death or Expiring Minds Want To Know

It is awe-inspiring that eight writers are credited with creating the book for this insipid musical journey through the lives of the tabloid generation of women whose "expiring minds want to know." The material, which is only slightly buoyed by Mark Houston's lackluster score, delves about as deeply into today's cultural ambiguities as the headlines of the journals it purports to satirize. Aided by the modular set design of Paul Bridgeman and the lighting of Jack Allaway, the imaginative staging of Karon Kearney and the considerable efforts of six talented women only serve to spotlight how little they had to work with. A tediously long opening number (nine minutes) sets up a series of often incomprehensible but usually raunchy vignettes centering on the supposed universal problems all women face and the solutions they come up with to tranquilize the days of their lives. The first act offers no illuminating moments.

With:
Michelle Callahan, Donna Cherry, Tonya Dixon, Karon Kearney, Barbara Niles, Diane Vincent.

“David, Don’t Fly Lufthansa” features Kearney and Donna Cherry as a slovenly housewife and soap opera queen, respectively, who battle over the fate of a male soap star. The only laughs come from Kearney’s adept ability at uttering well-timed profanity. Featuring Barbara Niles as an overweight prom queen contestant, “Prom Queen” and “We’ve Arrived” offer simplistic views of the insecurities a group of middle-aged classmates face at the prospect of attending their high school class reunion.

As an opera singer attempting to make it in the world of rhythm and blues, Tonya Dixon practically chews up the scenery in an effort to make “Divas at Motown” into something but the concept is pitifully unworkable. The absolute low moment of the first act, however, is its closing number, “The Real Thing,” wherein the whole company collaborates in manipulating those icons of pre-adolescents, Barbie and Ken, into a series of Kama Sutra-like positions for no understandable reason whatsoever.

The second act is better. Michelle Callahan’s poignant “I Read Too Much” is a sad portrait of an insecure woman who tries to find the answers to life in an endless perusal of self-help books. She finally realizes that “the one that makes sense to me is the last one I read.” Niles leads the company in “Hello Nancy,” a touching plea to the First Ladies of America to help today’s woman attain the empowerment they deserve but lack.

Unfortunately, it is all down hill from there. This time Diane Vincent assumes the opera star mantle but her “Divas at Nashville” are no more successful than they were in Detroit. Rounding out the list of misses are “Rambi,” a mind-numbing focus on the environment and the meandering second act closer, “God Is an Alien,” which thankfully sucks the whole production up into the ozone.

6 Women With Brain Death or Expiring Minds Want To Know

The Forum Theatre, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza: 800 seats; $21.50 top; Opened Aug. 8, 1997

Production: M. Edelman presents the Theatre League production of a musical in two acts by Cheryl Benge, Christy Brandt, Rosanna E. Coppedge, Valerie Fagan, Ross Freese, Mark Houston, Sandee Johnson and Peggy Pharr Wilson. Music and lyrics by Houston; directed by Karon Kearney; music direction/piano, Jim Grady; choreography, Lee Martino

Creative: set design, Paul Bridgeman; lighting design, Jack Allaway; bass, Victor Kolor; percussion, John David Harley. Opened Aug. 8, 1997; reviewed Aug. 16; runs until Sept. 14. Running time: 2 hours, 10 mins.

Cast: Michelle Callahan, Donna Cherry, Tonya Dixon, Karon Kearney, Barbara Niles, Diane Vincent.

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