×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

A Feminine Ending

Maybe you've heard the plot of this one before: Girl with artistic talent falls for boy with ditto; fears loss of identity if they wed; goes home to mom; discovers they are two peas in a pod; finds the courage to assert her own identity.

With:
Amanda - Gillian Jacobs Jack - Alec Beard Kim - Marsha Mason David - Richard Masur Billy - Joe Paulik

Maybe you’ve heard the plot of this one before: Girl with artistic talent falls for boy with ditto; fears loss of identity if they wed; goes home to mom; discovers they are two peas in a pod; finds the courage to assert her own identity. Despite the thin storyline and stock characters, Sarah Treem’s “A Feminine Ending” speaks up for itself in an unusually melodic voice, which is probably why Playwrights Horizons put its resources into such a snazzy production, helmed by Blair Brown, for this winsome find-yourself play.

Originality is not the draw here. Treem is a Yale Drama School grad and knows her way around the developmental theater (“A Feminine Ending” was workshopped at Portland Center Stage), so you’d think she would acknowledge she’s resurrecting a 1970s feminist rallying cry by taking “the tyranny of gender” as her theme.

But there’s no sense of context, let alone homage, in scribe’s treatment of a young woman’s struggle to find her own feminine voice in a man’s world. Rather, the journey to maturity that constitutes the play’s dramatic action takes place mainly in the head of the self-absorbed heroine, a recent conservatory grad whose instrument is the oboe and whose higher ambition is to compose symphonic pieces.

Under actress-turned-director Brown’s crisp helming, the stage is smartly set for the journey of self-discovery that Amanda (Gillian Jacobs) must take to find her voice as a composer and her identity as a woman. Cameron Anderson does his bit with a stylized set construction that looks like the innards of a musical instrument and feels powerful — like something a musician might pray to. Obadiah Eaves refines the message with the lyric delicacy of his original music.

Taking up Amanda’s cause, Jacobs flashes her considerable charm on a musician who is trying hard to live up to the instrument she plays. It seems that, while the oboe serves to tune up the entire orchestra, it cannot itself be tuned. In the same way, Amanda is aware of how she might further the career of her fiance, a budding rock-star named Jack (Alec Beard), but she can’t seem to focus on finding her own musical direction. While she vaguely senses this might have something to do with the unequal ways in which male and female artists are perceived, she is extraordinarily (and unbelievably) naive about sexual politics.

Beard is amusing to watch as Jack hesitantly tries out his new macho muscles as a rock-star stud, and Jacobs practically sits in the audience’s lap for her funny little monologues. But despite Treem’s whimsical dialogue for the lovers, the cute-as-hell charm of their floundering relationship wears thin, and it’s a relief when Amanda bolts for her parents’ home in New Hampshire.

Marsha Mason and Richard Masur take over nicely on this family turf as Kim and David, playing these stereotypical parents-without-a-clue with the droll humor to support the quirkiness demanded by their fey dialogue and mannered behavior.

Mason even manages a hint of feeling when Kim demonstrates to her daughter that her own hopes and dreams were strangled at the altar by domesticity.

But darned if that saw-it-coming-a-mile-away plot device doesn’t put its own drag on the action. Finally, it is left to Joe Paulik to perk up the proceedings with his seriously funny turn as Billy, the town postman who grew up desperately infatuated with Amanda — and who may yet get lucky.

The audience also gets lucky here, sensing that something may yet actually happen in this talky play. And even though it comes too late in the game, the comic kick that Treem finally delivers suggests real hope for the playwright.

A Feminine Ending

Playwrights Horizons; 128 seats; $50 top

Production: A Playwrights Horizons presentation of a play in one act by Sarah Treem. Directed by Blair Brown.

Creative: Sets, Cameron Anderson; costumes, Michael Krass; lighting, Ben Stanton; original music and sound, Obadiah Eaves; production stage manager, Robyn Henry. Opened Oct. 17, 2007. Reviewed Oct. 16. Running time: 1 HOUR, 30 MIN.

Cast: Amanda - Gillian Jacobs Jack - Alec Beard Kim - Marsha Mason David - Richard Masur Billy - Joe Paulik

More Legit

  • The Cane review

    London Theater Review: 'The Cane'

    “The Cane” lands with a thwack — a timely intervention in a topical debate. By dredging up the specter of corporal punishment in British schools, Mark Ravenhill’s terse allegorical drama asks how we handle historic injustices. Can old complaints be forgot? Or should we seek redress, judging the past by present-day standards? The question’s incisive; [...]

  • Best Theater of 2018

    The Best Theater of 2018

    It’s been a busy year for theater fans on both sides of the Atlantic, with Broadway hosting everything from big-name brands (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” “Mean Girls,” “Frozen”) to indie gems (“The Band’s Visit”) and London launching ambitious new plays (“The Inheritance”) and high-profile revivals (“Company”). Below, Variety‘s theater critics — Marilyn Stasio [...]

  • Downstairs Tyne Daly Tim Daly

    Listen: Tyne Daly and Tim Daly on Family, Acting and Living With Demons

    The Emmy- and Tony-winning actress Tyne Daly doesn’t enjoy acting. When her younger brother, Tim Daly, was a kid, he thought actors were just “drunken grownups who wouldn’t feed me.” And the Off Broadway play Tyne and Tim are both starring in, “Downstairs,” has recently taken on some surprising echoes of life in the Trump [...]

  • Broadway sales Fun Home

    Concord Music Buys Samuel French in Theatrical Megadeal

    Concord Music has acquired Samuel French, a theater publisher and licensor that has represented musical hits such as “Fun Home,” and the plays of Tennessee Williams and August Wilson. The music company will form a new unit, Concord Theatricals. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. The merged business will boast not only Samuel [...]

  • Hugh Jackman'To Kill a Mockingbird' Broadway

    'To Kill a Mockingbird's' Starry Opening: Oprah, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and More

    The Shubert Theatre in New York City was filled on Thursday night with Oscar winners, media titans, and, of course, Broadway legends who came out for the opening of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The starry guest list included Oprah Winfrey, Barry Diller, “Les Misérables” co-stars Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Gayle King, Magic [...]

  • Pat Gelbart Obit Dead

    Actress Pat Gelbart, Wife of 'MASH' Creator, Dies at 94

    Pat Gelbart, widow of late “MASH” creator Larry Gelbart, died surrounded by family at her home in Westwood, Calif. on Dec. 11. She was 94. Gelbart was born in Minneapolis, Minn. in 1928 as Marriam Patricia Murphy. When she met her husband, Gelbart was an actress, known for the 1947 musical “Good News,” in which [...]

  • To Kill a Mockingbird review

    Broadway Review: 'To Kill a Mockingbird'

    Against all odds, writer Aaron Sorkin and director Bartlett Sher have succeeded in crafting a stage-worthy adaptation of Harper Lee’s classic American novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The ever-likable Daniels, whose casting was genius, gives a strong and searching performance as Atticus Finch, the small-town Southern lawyer who epitomizes the ideal human qualities of goodness, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content