Part feminist parable and part girlie show, “Sirens of Seduction” would be hopelessly incongruous even if its authors had aspired to create something more than an extended sitcom. First-time playwrights Lee Murphy and Jan Bina have more experience in comedy than in theater, which is all too evident: while their play has some laughs, in terms of both character and plot, it is nothing more than a series of cliches.
The setting is the middle-class Reseda living room of Judy Peterson, whose husband of 15 years has just walked out on her for a younger woman. Undaunted–or, more likely, in denial–Judy is going ahead with her latest money-making project, which involves inviting a group of friends over to model–and, she hopes, buy–a line of unusually risque lingerie.
The evening is rocky. Judy’s resentment of her husband keeps emerging at awkward moments until her friends–more out of voyeuristic impulses than genuine compassion–insist she tell them what’s going on.
Once she’s done so, they rally around her and she finds the strength to go on.
The fact Judy goes from half-crazed revenge seeker to in-charge woman in the space of two hours–while standing around in her undies, no less–is just one of the many implausibilities the audienceis expeted to swallow.
Their plotting is so sloppy that at one point, Judy shoots at a peeping Tom–a pointless and transparent attempt to create some drama at the first-act curtain–with a gun that had been carefully hidden from her. Presumably, he continued to peep while she scoured the house in search of the weapon.
The characters are strictly cliches: the jolly fat woman, the dimwitted working-class neighbor who keeps getting pregnant and the unhappy rich woman who puts up a frosty front but admits in a moment of candor that she lives a sterile , boring life.
Danny Goldman directed his actresses to perform in a sitcom style, with exaggerated gestures and punched-up line deliveries. He does know something about comic timing and sees to it that the few truly funny lines are delivered well.
Within this context, some of the actresses do good work. Nancy Linardi makes haughty Yvonne’s rapid descent into paranoia quite amusing. Doris Hess provides the production with some needed warmth as the enthusiastic real estate mogul. And Debbie Zipp, as Judy, displays some genuine charm during the few moments she stops trying to Act with a capital A.
D. Martyn Bookwalter does his usual fine job with the set; he makes Judy’s living room tacky but not garish. Rhonda Earick does similarly subtle work with the costumes, limiting the exposure of flesh to minimal levels.
If only the subtlety of these two had been reflected in the writing. Murphy and Bina have a serious theme–the desperation of unhappy middle-aged women who are trying to take control of their lives–but they end up trivializing it with stale one-liners and hackneyed drama. The result can hardly be called seductive.