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THEATER REVIEW : 'Older Woman': More Revue Than Play


The last place you'd look for a fierce, male-bashing feminist message is a raunchy play. But peel back the layers of lewd humor in "Young Man, Older Woman," which opened Tuesday at the Wiltern Theatre, and you get a harangue against self-absorbed men.

Actually, calling this production, starring R&B singer-comic Millie Jackson, a play is a stretch. It's more of a rambling revue, with songs and X-rated skits roughly related to the theme of a woman's struggle for self-esteem.

With the tacky sets and the tinny-sounding band in the pit just under the stage, this musical comedy has the rough feel of old-time burlesque. Some of the jokes are just as dated, but they're delivered with such gusto that you don't really notice.

The loose thread of a plot, written and directed by Doug and Helen Smith, concerns a wife, played by Jackson, whose husband is turned off by her weight gain. Hoping to hang on to him, she trims down, but that doesn't work. She has a breakdown and spends the rest of the play in therapy, where she winds up having more impact on her young doctor than he has on her.

At more than 2 1/2 hours, the show needs tightening. Paring the weak songs by Jackson's daughter, Keisha, and the so-so aerobic dance number by Kenny Montague would help.

As the disgruntled husband, comedian Reynaldo Rey steals the first part of the show with his glib delivery and a hilarious rap parody. Douglas Knyght, as the doctor, has amusing moments, but he is overshadowed by Jackson.

Jackson, one of R&B's most dynamic performers, has been making her living as a singer who dabbles in comedy. What she should be, though, is a comedian who dabbles in singing. She's peerless in the crude, street-humor genre--at times as dagger-sharp as Richard Pryor was at his '70s best.

* "Young Man, Older Woman," Wiltern Theatre, 3790 Wilshire Blvd., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Ends Sunday. $26-$30. Information: (213) 380-5005.

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