Flattery can get you anywhere, or it can make you look like a fool. The pendulum swings, somewhat precariously, between these two outcomes in Triptych Productions’ The Confines of Flattery.
The play consists of three one-acts from three different playwrights—each offering a perspective on women and wit, or lack thereof.
Moliere’s The Affected Young Ladies, directed by Heather Benjamin, sets the scene in 17th century Paris. Two provincial, yet pretentious cousins, Magdelon (Julia Morrissey) and Cathos (Kelsey Meiklejohn) long to experience the rich cultural trappings of the city—art, music, theater, amor. Unfortunately, their superficiality leads them to mistake style for substance, and no one has more style than the dashing Mascarille, played with exuberant physicality by Mitchell Grant. This perfect suitor says all the right things, and the ladies coo on cue. They flit around the stage, fans fluttering, but it is the gentleman who steals this scene.
The next act picks up in the early 20th century with Ferenc Molnár’s A Matter of Husbands, directed by Julia Morrissey, an amusing back-and-forth between a glamorous actress and a scorned wife. Meiklejohn, whose wide-eyed innocence shines in each of her scenes, plays The Earnest Young Woman, confronting the actress with the charge of stealing her husband. Heather Benjamin’s Famous Actress commands the stage with an authoritative tone and slyness, wrapping the young woman around her finger with every word. The two women play well together, and the concluding twist remains a surprise until the end.
The third and final scene, The Mamet Women by Frederick Stoppel, is a modern-day take on the ball-busting machismo of playwright David Mamet. His wise-cracking, profanity-spewing alpha-males are here replaced with wise-cracking, profanity-spewing alpha-females. Sally (Julia Morrissey, at her best) and Polly (Heather Benjamin) trade tit for tat in a hilarious scene about the holy grail of domestic womanhood: Tupperware. Benjamin plays it cool, calm, and collected, while Morrissey’s delightfully crass Sally takes a page from the ladies of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.”
These three one-acts were, presumably, chosen for a specific reason—but the thesis of this time-spanning argument remains unclear. Ladies love wordplay? Wit will undo any woman? While each one-act contains certain similarities, it’s difficult to connect them to any overarching theme or statement. Women are duped in each one, taken down rather effortlessly by advantageous adversaries, skilled in the wielding of words. Interestingly enough, all three scenes were penned by men, which may hint at another possible thesis–women are too often wooed by flattery and confined by the words of men.
The Confines of Flattery has 6 shows, ending July 29, 2012 at Redrum at Fort Fringe, 612 L St NW, Washington, DC.
Details and tickets
Christian rates this 3 out of a possible 5.