Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Fefu & Her Friends"

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note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Larry Stark

"Fefu & Her Friends"

by Maria Irene Fornes
Directed by Christopher Scully

Set Design by Dan Scully
Props Design by Betsy Roe
Costume Design by Dianne Scully
Sound Design by Dave Poole
Stage Manager Kevin LaVelle

Fefu...........................Ava Geffen
Cindy....................Emma Dassori
Christine..........Danielle L. DiDio
Julia............................Irene Daly
Emma.....................Kristin Baker
Sue..........................Linda Tsang
Paula.........................Marisa Pell
Cecilia.....................Juliet Nelson

Maria Irene Fornes --- whose name does not roll easily off my tongue --- has built a solid reputation writing densely enigmatic, poetic plays, of which I have now seen two. "Fefu & Her Friends", in a solid production by the Industrial Theatre through the 16th, has seven female friends rendezvous at Fefu's New England country house for a weekend of re-acquaintance and impromptu games. In the central section of the show, the audience is cut into quarters and escorted, up and down stairs, each to a series of four different rooms when, in two's and threes, the women engage in more or less intimate and revealing exchanges, before reassembling again in a living-room set where seats have the audience ring the action around the walls. Much of the dialogue concerns the state of modern woman, and in form the play is an intriguing attempt to do on stage many things that film does easily but not nearly so compellingly.

However, neither the author nor Christopher Scully the director have provided it with an iron-clad plot, allowing each member of the audience to impose one of their own. Here's mine:

CAVEAT: The show is performed with an intense, intent directness which, in the first part (there are no intermissions) feel quite abstract. Other spectators could feel differently and come up with different interpretations.
As I see it, though, the eight have convened to outline a program of speeches --- perhaps at the reunion of a women's college class --- so women's lives, the essence of woman's existence, and their own everyday experiences come under examination, both verbalized and physicalized. One woman may suffer a hysterical paralysis because of the social acceptance of male superiority; two may be adjusting to the breakup of their lesbian affair; some are old friends, some new. There is a lot of very pointed philosophizing from several viewpoints, but as the play progresses very real activities --- heating soup in a real kitchen, snapping beans and cleaning carrots, a light-hearted water-fight; spontaneous singing of songs --- anchor the women in the every day.

I am not the kind of reviewer to insist that my views can be the only correct ones, so even that interpretation of what I saw may not fit yours. But, especially since warmly personal interactions arise in the four scenes of Part II, I felt that the no-nonsense, direct abstraction in Part I is much more bewildering than an air of light banter might be. The production seems at pains to make these ladies Spokesmen(sorry) spokesWOMEN rather than "just us girls".

My comments are not dogmatic. I don't feel qualified to re-direct a show. The play as written is certainly uniquely original, surprising, and thought-provoking as it stands, and you should see it for yourselves and trust your own interpretations and reactions.


"Fefu & Her Friends" (1 - 16 February)
Old Leverett Library, Harvard Square, Mill Street, CAMBRIDGE, MA
1(617) 496-2222

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide