The peril of Joyce Carol Oates’ collection of soul-bearing female monologues is that her mordant feminism teeters on disempowerment — every woman is miserable and often because of a man (or lack of one). Still, this talented ensemble has given it a go, and the pieces that work don’t ask the audience to buy the ladies’ woes wholesale. Standouts are Deborah Austin as a wallflower fulfilled by marrying a convicted serial killer; Krysten Klein’s murdered stripper-with-a-heart-of-gold; Cindy D’Andrea as a desperately lonely but desperately cheerful receptionist; and Cecelia Specht’s loony philanthropist who dreams of blasting bullets at her charity cases and country club peers. These bright spots punishingly alternate with more strident pieces where Eddie Kehler’s direction too closely hews to Oates’ hectoring. Though well-acted, the raving anorexic (Layla Alexander), unloved teacher (Amanda Mayen) and passive girlfriend (Shyla Marlin) are exercises in panting, writhing and screaming; a segment that has a devout mental patient awaiting the Apocalypse and which closes with a shrieking nuclear blast is just silly. A concluding chant suggests that all women share each other’s sorrows, but I wanted distance from Oates’ victims even as they each demanded to be loved.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6:30 p.m. Starts: July 11. Continues through Aug. 17, 2008
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