Emmy Award-winner Ann Marcus (co-creator of "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman") gives a feminist holler with "Waiting for Betty Friedan," a "family" comedy which benefits greatly from a second-act infusion of rhetoric. Set in 1958, show has its moments, but, under Stu Berg's staging, the players don't seem quite comfortable with the material.

Emmy Award-winner Ann Marcus (co-creator of “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman”) gives a feminist holler with “Waiting for Betty Friedan,” a “family” comedy which benefits greatly from a second-act infusion of rhetoric. Set in 1958, show has its moments, but, under Stu Berg’s staging, the players don’t seem quite comfortable with the material.

Action centers around middle-class Pittsburgh suburban housewife Amy (Elizabeth Mann), whose 12-year marriage to up-and-coming corporate lawyer Arthur (Michael Harrity) has only one problem: She still hankers to develop the muse she abandoned after college to tend her demanding spouse and two children. Of course, ultra-conservative Arthur would prefer Amy give up the artsy nonsense.

Despite a plethora of wifely and motherly chores, Amy manages to write a play, which she surreptitiously sends to college pal-turned-hack TV writer Walter (Derrel Maury) and to New York theatrical agent M.J. Meyers (Barry Jenner). Naturally, the discovery of her sideline unleashes chaos on the day Arthur’s boss Mr. Knoll (Dan Gilvary) and his wife (June Sanders) are coming for dinner.

Arthur learns Amy had a brief fling with Walter. The aforementioned hack then turns up at the door, with longtime actress girlfriend Roz (Suzanne Hunt), to insist Amy give up everything to come with him back to Manhattan to work on the play. While Amy tries to deal with Walter, her irate husband and her dinner guests, agent Meyers arrives — surprise! — with the news that legendary producer David Merrick wants to option Amy’s play forthwith to be developed into a Broadway musical.

Marcus utilizes the competing agendas of Arthur and the Walter/Meyers combo to set up an emotional catharsis that eventually explodes in a round of feminist cliches mouthed by housewife Amy and career woman Roz. These sentiments ostensibly anticipate Betty Friedan’s 1963 opus “The Feminine Mystique,” but it’s too little, too late, to give offer up much depth.

Mann works hard to give some credence to ambivalent Amy’s plight and Jenner is on target as the fast-talking dealmaker from Gotham.

Waiting for Betty Friedan

Theater East, Studio City; 99 seats; $18 top

Production

Theater East and June Sattler present a play in two acts by Ann Marcus. Directed by Stu Berg.

Creative

Lights, Derrick McDaniel; sound, John Butler. Opened May 11, 2002; reviewed May 19; runs through June 30. Running time: 2 HOURS.

Cast

Amy - Elizabeth Mann Arthur - Michael Harrity Josh - Josh Jacobs Tony - Jesse Phillips March Mrs. Knoll - June Sanders Walter Wright - Derrel Maury Roz Cooper - Suzanne Hunt Mr. Knoll - Dan Gilvary M.J. Meyers - Barry Jenner Mrs. King - Donna Moore

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