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Who’s Frank? We’ll never tell | Art & Appetite


Last updated 4/20/2017 at Noon

“Female of the Species” Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Where: Phoenix Theatre, 9673 Firdale Ave., Edmonds When: Through April 30 Tickets: $12-$19 Information: www.tptedmonds.org, 206-533-2000

Spoiler alert: If you like to go into the theater without any notion of what you're about to see, proceed directly to the Phoenix Theatre’s ticket site and read no further.

Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith drew upon actual events – the strange and unfortunate home invasion of noted feminist Germaine Greer by a disgruntled fan – to provide the backdrop to her hysterically funny “Female of the Species,” now playing through April 30 at Phoenix Theatre in Firdale Village.

The first 25 minutes of the play unfold with local actors Melanie Calderwood and Tracy Cahill facing off in an ideological confrontation. There are grievances to be aired and inconsistencies to be exposed. Handcuffs are involved. But things get even crazier as the vaunted elder feminist’s daughter, played by Debra Rich, joins the fray.

Rich did not have to dig very deep to access the exhaustion and emotional turmoil of parenting small children. She shared that her high school aged son wondered aloud why everyone was laughing? Her on-stage emotional meltdown seemed pretty normal to him.

As a result of being the rebellious child of a famous radical feminist, Rich’s character has no choice but to become a traditional homemaker and mother. Although this has the desired effect upon her mother, her character remains unfulfilled, at least until Frank comes along. Who’s Frank? Buy a ticket!

As the play evolves, Murray-Smith heaps character upon character in this take-no-prisoners farce that exposes the hypocrisy of each, and has a jolly good time doing it.

“Female of the Species” comes off as slightly more ribald and scandalous than other Phoenix offerings, a move I heartily applaud. I would not recommend it for small children or the easily shocked. There’s an occasional f-bomb, and Australian humor is often a little rustic.

“It's always a challenge to stay true to the writer’s intentions without offending the sensibilities of some of our audience,” said Phoenix’s veteran director Eric Lewis.

Moving toward the risqué does not appear to be an accident. Managing director Debra Rich Gettleman put it this way: “Our artistic director Melanie Calderwood has a great eye and selected some wonderful plays this season. I like edgy. I like a little pushback. I don't want to do thoughtless silly plays. I want audience members to be discussing the issues raised as they walk out.”

“Species” succeeds in that department. It’s thought-provoking, laugh-out-loud funny, and completely unpredictable.

On a side note, the set has been decorated with fine art provided by several of Edmonds’ own local artists. The art is available for sale.

James Spangler is the owner of Spangler Book Exchange in Edmonds and an aficionado of all things art and appetite. Do you know of a Snohomish County restaurant, art gallery or theatrical show worthy of a review? Call him at 206-795-0128 or email him at jamesspangler@gmail.com.


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