Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre
Written by Wendy MacLeod
Directed by Sean Daniels
Review by Kate Lew Idlebrook
Lifelong friends, Mary (Jessica Wortham) and Jo (Julia Brothers), grow increasingly concerned that Jackson, the new beau of their fellow divorcee Liz (Gail Restorer), may be responsible for the recent disappearance of his dental hygienist. They toss wine glasses and a bottle into their purses, and head out into the Utah night to get to the bottom of the caper. Things become increasingly more complicated when Liz’s daughter, Amanda (Ashley Shaman) and her on-again-off-again boyfriend, Trenner (Jacob York), get involved. Misunderstandings and general hilarity ensue, not to mention a lot of discussion of sex and boobs.
This cast sets out to do a farce, and they succeed. As the play progresses, the actors seem to gain confidence and the characters grow on you. By the end, you care about them all, from creepy dentist-beau Jackson (Lou Sumrall) to self-absorbed Amanda. Part of the reason this show works so well is that the actors never let the high levels of energy falter and they don’t, not even for a beat, take themselves seriously. This is not to say that there aren’t genuine, well-timed uncomfortable and vulnerable moments. Jessica Wortham delivers some fantastic, dry zingers. Julia Brothers provides the play with a steady straight woman, punctuated by comic relief whenever the plot threatens to turn too serious.
Lou Sumrall plays double duty as Jackson and Sargent Sponsüllar, the ernest investigating police detective. In some ways Sumrall’s roles require the most risk. Pulling off Jackson’s awkward, one-liners means trusting his fellow actors and the audience enough to let the moments sit. While he is not one hundred percent successful yet, he frequently succeeds, and the audience rewards him for it.
Scenic Designer Michael B. Raiford’s set is a typically-comfortable suburban kitchen. It provides the perfect backdrop. Placing the audience and the characters at home, it does what a good set should, by being initially pleasing and then fading into the backdrop.
As long as you are not turned off by the woman’s copious talk of middle-age sex and mid-life crisis, you’ll find Women in Jeopardy an enjoyable escape from the stress of everyday life. And you will appreciate coming home to a warm house all the more, especially if it is your mother’s.
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