Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

John C. Vennema

Linda – Bullseye!


We’re present at an in-house marketing pitch. On  screen is Swan Cosmetics’ Product 0427, an Anti-Aging Cream. “After 50, women are invisible, underrepresented in the media,” Linda begins. “You rarely get marketed to…” Models used in advertising are in their 20s and 30s (images) reminding women not what they could be but who they were, she continues. Only Helen Mirren (images) is allowed to grow older. We want to tell them we know you’re out there, we see you.

There probably isn’t a female in the audience who doesn’t understand this at gut level. In fact, sympathetic smatterings of applause and laughter emerge from our audience throughout performance.

Linda (Jane Dee) is a poster woman for having it all. At 55, she’s a whip smart, attractive, respected woman executive who makes enough money so that perpetually distracted husband Neil (Donald Sage Mackay), a teacher, can play in a rock band without worrying about household finances, and the only concern of well adjusted, 15 year-old daughter Bridget (Molly Ranson), is what male monologue to use for university theater auditions – women’s roles all being wimps.


Janie Dee

The fourth member of the family, now 25 year-old adopted daughter Alice (Jennifer Ikeda), dropped off an engineering track in college, cyber-stalked by a high school incident involving the dissemination of naked photos and abject bullying. At 25, she’s been hanging around her room in a shapeless (sexless) skunk costume her mom refers to as the “onsie,” for years. (Designer Jennifer von Mayrhauser creates an inspired outfit.)

Linda loves and encourages both girls, but has been, perhaps, a bit preoccupied and too patient with Alice who clearly needs professional help. She finally secures her an intern job at Swan for “work experience,” without telling anyone the girl is her daughter. Alice wears her black and white “armor” beneath a skirt and jacket like Mormon magic underwear. What roils beneath remains.

Playwright Penelope Skinner imagines enough consequences to middle age and illusions of having it all to make a contemporary Job of poor Linda. Almost every destructive pathology addressed by feminism is experienced or manifest by the heroine and her family. Some are due to inattention, others societal. Several cracks in an otherwise glossy veneer occur on the same day:

First, rejecting the confident presentation, Swan’s short-sighted president, Dave (John C. Vennema), introduces Linda to Amy (Molly Griggs), a young, pretty, amoral barracuda whose designs on her job she vastly underestimates. Then, returning home early, she encounters Stevie (Meghann Fahy), the nubile lead singer of Neil’s band, wearing only his t-shirt. (Her husband’s subsequent excuses evoke audience reaction just short of boos.)


John C. Vennema, Janie Dee

Tip of the iceberg. Linda’s mother set a secret precedent, Amy has an historical connection with Alice, a co-worker named Luke (Maurice Jones) affects both Alice and her mother drastically, Amy grabs further opportunity, Linda gets a taste of that which she understood only superficially… Crash!

Like watching a pinball machine, cause and effect are inexorably bound once the lever is pulled. Aside from Alice’s obvious need of help, I additionally winced in reaction to behavior so stupid, it was uncharacteristic of savvy, powerhouse Linda. Of course, she was in a heightened emotional state…(Neil and Dave are effectively stand-ins for attitudes, rather than people.) The play is timely, sharp, and articulate, with a few immensely creative turns.

Janie Dee is flat out superb. Conviction is so palpable, blinders so believably habitual, her character’s disintegration jars with real impact. We (at least, we women) feel Linda’s ambition, pride, shock, courage, desperation, that moment of madness – we even conjecture unplayed outcomes. Dee is 100% present, communicating with laser focus.

The rest of the company is well cast. Of particular note are Jennifer Ikeda whose anger and depression never loses its visceral bite, an easy trap for that theatrical state, and Molly Griggs, whose oblivious narcissism is splendid in its singularity.

Walt Spangler’s Revolving Set looks just right from upscale kitchen to tasteful modern offices, though I missed personal items. The choice and framework is its achievement.Used to best advantage revolution allows us to observe things happening simultaneously as well as swiftly and successively.

Director Lynne Meadow is highly skilled with naturalism – each bit of stage business feels innate to character and situation, every pause and gesture has a reason. We even see ideas with which a character wrestles. Linda’s presentation style is aptly differentiated from the rest of the scenario. Pacing is spot on. Alice’s latter reveal and Linda’s crossing boundaries are both remarkable parentheses.

Photos by Richard Termine
Opening: Jennifer Ikeda, Molly Ranson, Janie Dee

Manhattan Theatre Club presents
Linda by Penelope Skinner
Directed by Lynne Meadow
New York City Center Stage I
131 W 55th St

Tears and Terms of Endearment 


When the movie Terms of Endearment came out in theaters in 1983, it was by all measures an incredibly successful film. Based on the book by Larry McMurtry and with ascreenplay by James L. Brooks, it featured a who’s who of award-winning actors, including Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, and Jack Nicholson. Now the story comes to a new home, 59E59 Theaters, for its first U.S. stage production.

Adapted for the stagve by Dan Gordon, Terms of Endearment tells the story of sweet Texas rose Emma, her critical and tough-as-nails mother, Aurora, and the men who lift them up and let them down.


Molly Ringwald

The stage cast is full of familiar faces, headed up by the striking Molly Ringwald, the John Hughes muse who personified 80s teen culture in films like The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles. Here she puts on a hilariously snobbish New England accent and steely persona to become a woman who is at turns domineering, flirtatious, and sympathetic in the grief for all she has lost.

At first she seems completely unlikeable, almost to the point of being abusive in her criticism toward Emma, but at the story goes on and the years pass, she comes into focus as a woman who loves deeply but is also bridled by her expectations. The problem with being so critical about frivolous things is that when real criticism is deserved it doesn’t land with the impact it requires. It’s a complex role and Ringwald does it proud. But she doesn’t do it alone.

Jeb Brown plays the astronaut, Garrett, and he makes an instant impression on both the audience and Aurora. He’s an utter cad, always chasing after younger women and the next good time, but he’s also undeniably charming. His footloose and fancy-free philosophy couldn’t be more at odds with Aurora’s staid dignity. For every joke he cracks, no matter how flirtatious or fact-based, she has a reason to be doubtful. Yet when the two get together, doubt turns to delight. Between Brown’s charisma, Ringwald’s gravitas and their chemistry together, this is a production not to be missed.


Hannah Dunne

Hannah Dunne, a familiar face to Mozart in the Jungle viewers, takes on the role of Aurora’s beleaguered daughter, Emma. Where Aurora wears silk, Emma opts for flannel. She hitches her post to Flap—a nickname Aurora cannot abide—a dismissive boy who becomes a dishonorable man, but that doesn’t stop them from having three kids together, kids that Emma cares for nearly singlehandedly while Flap is off gallivanting inappropriately with his university students.

The problem with Dunne’s Emma being so unflappable and willing to go without is that the performance requires a kind of subtlety that doesn’t quite come out—at least not farther back in the audience. She seems uniformly sweet, uniformly forgiving, even when she and her children have been done wrong. As for Flap, played by Denver Milord, there is little to recommend him. In the beginning, he comes off as a bit sexist and certainly inconsiderate, but things just get more unforgivable as time goes on.


Jeb Brown and John C. Vennema

Director Michael Parva, who has worked with playwright Dan Gordon before, and set designer David L. Arsenault, have worked together to craft a graceful, flowing, nearly seamless production. However, for those who have never seen the 1983 film, the mother–daughter relationship is the entire story. You can sense Emma’s discontent with Flap, but not really get the full idea of just how much of a snake he really is. You can hear that Emma’s son Tommy’s anger at his mother is deep and hot, but not feel how terribly it stings.

Unfortunately, due to space and time constraints, there are some really powerful moments in the film that simply don’t happen in this version. It’s a disappointment, but not enough to keep from recommending this production, which can still make inspire laughs and move people to tears—as it did most of the audience judging by the sound of sniffles that filled the room. Jessica DiGiovanni as Patsy and the Nurse and John C. Vennema as Doctor Maise round out the cast, both of them lending depth and humor to their smaller but important parts. Vennema in particular plays things to full humorous effect.

Photos by Carol Rosegg
Top photo: Molly Ringwald and Hannah Dunne

Terms of Endearment
Directed by Michael Parva
Adapted by Dan Gordon
59E59 Theaters
Through December 11, 201