After almost two hours of this exhausting, exhilarating, frustrating play, there was a round table discussion among the audience. (We sit on cushioned tiers in a complete oval.) A man (there were, I think, four among us) volunteered sympathetic support. A young woman took the microphone in paroxysms of sincere tears, several spoke of organizations with which they were involved, one hoped the play would be picked up by PBS for as wide exposure as it can get. I second that.
Christine Lahti, DeLanna Studi, Liz Wisan, Fedna Jacquet, and Francesca Fernandez McKenzie
Issues brought to light in the 1960s/1970s remain unaddressed (are you aware the ERA was never signed into law?!) or at risk (Roe v. Wade). Though progress has been made (including the recent Me Too movement), countless obstructions remain. Look who’s running the government! Women all over the country- and men, especially new voters, need to see this.
Gloria Steinem (1934-), here portrayed by the able Christine Lahti, was and is a journalist, editor in chief/co-founder of Ms. Magazine (with Dorothy Pitman Hughes), and co-founder of The Women’s Media Center (with Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan). She’s one of our most formidable and articulate activists, a self-avowed radical feminist, both avatar and example.
Christine Lahti and Joanna Glushak as Bella Abzug, Joanna Glushak as Mrs. Steinem and Christine Lahti
More about its subject’s campaign for women’s rights than it is about Steinem herself, the play does reflect upon the relationship with her mentally fragile mother which influenced feelings about social justice, and we briefly hear about the death of a last love. Little else that’s personal is, alas, brought to light. What is depicted, both in dialogue and video, however, arrives clear and dramatic illuminating her thoughts; showing sequence, male pushback, and others pivotal to change including Bella Abzug, Flo Kennedy, and Wilma Mankiller.
With the help of an ensemble who play multiple roles as well as protesters, we follow Steinem from early attempts to be taken seriously as a journalist through her serendipitous, breakthrough assignment by Show Magazine for which the attractive young writer became a Playboy Bunny. Eschewing frivolous work that followed, she freelanced until, in 1969, Steinem covered an abortion Speak-Out for New York Magazine and something clicked. (She had had an abortion.)
Participation in countless events, committees, and selective political campaigns; articles and interviews followed. Playwright Emily Mann has chosen high points along Steinem’s journey. There are quotes by and video of Richard Nixon and Harry Reasoner, the first dismissing her, the second initially disparaging, then apologizing. A related conversation between Saul Bellow and Gay Talese is blatantly demeaning. Years pass. Accomplishments are clocked (little more), progress checked.
Director Diane Paulus does a superb job of moving her players so that everyone has regular, clear view. Crowd scenes are well executed. Lahti is focused and credible. Scene transitions are smooth.
Excellent Projection Design by Elaine J. McCarthy and Sound Design by Robert Kaplowitz and Aldrea Allmond add immeasurably to the experience.
Ensemble: Joanna Glushak (very good as both Steinem’s mom and Bella Abzug) Fedna Jacquet, Francesca Fernandez McKenzie, Patrena Murray, DeLanna Studi, Liz Eisan
Production Photos by Joan Marcus
Top: Joanna Glushak, Fedna Jacquet, Francesca Fernandez McKenzie, Christine Lahti, Patrena Murray, DeLanna Studi, and Liz Wisan
Gloria, A Life by Emily Mann
Featuring Christine Lahti
Directed by Diane Paulus
Through January 31, 2018
Daryl Roth Theatre
101 East 15th Street