The women in Clare Boothe Luce's "The Women" are more cat (as in catty) than anything else. They are made not of sugar and spice and everything nice, but of nasty hisses and nails sharp enough for the most enthusiastic back-stabbing.
Luce's 1935 comedy, at the Westminster Community Theatre, is about as vicious as humor about high society gets.
It is not a great--nor even an especially good--play; the plot is hackneyed and messy, and the characters are about as deep as a kid's wading pool. Besides, it's all rather misanthropic. Men are seen as boneheaded, selfish and weak of flesh (if it's in a skirt, they'll chase it); women are shown as superficial, deceitful and disloyal--at least to other women.
Still, its soap-opera tensions and life-style pretensions can make for some laughs, and director Jan Angelino and her cast of 22 women milk them happily.
At the center of all the dirt-dishing on dastardly men, and the silly women who let them get away with murder, is Mary--dear, sweet, gullible Mary. Husband Stephen is having an affair with the tart Crystal, and Mary doesn't know about it. But all her so-called friends do, and it's just too much fun gabbing about it behind Mary's back while her life slowly collapses.
The queen of the bad-mouthing is Sylvia, a preening blowhard who lives to create trouble. Carol Filian's Sylvia is astonishingly reckless as she tramps through her friends' lives leaving wreckage in her wake. It isn't so much that Sylvia is a bad person, it's just that she talks too much.
As Mary, Fran Gordon is convincingly naive. Her niceness often makes her look dim and helpless, a kitten among saber-tooths. It's not clear why she would want her slug of a husband back so desperately, but that's more Luce's fault than Gordon's.
Many of the other portrayals are also rather good, including Bonnie Mikoleit's as the perennially pregnant (and unhappy about it) Edith; Mary Benton's as a down-to-earth writer, and Ginger Francis' as the shy and spacey Peggy.
'THE WOMEN' A Westminster Community Theatre production of the Clare Boothe Luce play. Director Jan Angelino. With Karla Abrams, Roz Abrams, Candace Beckett, Mary Benton, Jenn Carter, Suzanne Chapman, Toni Colley, Joanna Courtney, Claudia Ehrhardt, Carol Filian, Ginger Francis, Fran Gordon, Bonnie Homer, Melody Johnson, Debbie Korkunis, Bonnie Mikoleit, Bettie Mullenberg, Allyson Nakasone, Adelina Peck, Shannon Schardt, Louise Tonti and Joanne Wolcott. Lighting Steve Carlock. Costumes Roz Abrams. Sets by Lee Dorman, Steve Carlock and Mary Kay Lewis. Plays Friday and Saturday at 8:30 p.m. through Oct. 3 at 7272 Maple St., Westminster. Tickets: $7. (714) 995-4113.