UPI (Womens eNews), March 29, 2013 –
Betty Friedan’s parting words: “We didn’t challenge the system enough.” She helped start the women’s revolution but came to realize–along with many of us–that the problem everyone faced was economic predators. It’s a point to note on the fiftieth anniversary of her groundbreaking book, “The Feminine Mystique.”
It was Labor Day weekend 2005 at the Sag Harbor, Long Island, cottage of Betty Friedan five months before her death. I’d met Friedan in mid-1969 at a small gathering of the National Organization for Women (NOW) at the Upper West Side apartment of Dolores Alexander, a reporter for Newsday. (At that time, all gatherings of NOW were small!)
Friedan was the national president of NOW and one of its founders. When she discovered I was a journalist, she asked me to be NOW’s public relations vice president. A major NOW focus was ending discrimination against women in employment. I thought that was central to changing the status of women. So I agreed.
Jesse Eisenberg’s play about the importance of family to which a holocaust survivor clings takes life through the fine, transformative acting of Vanessa Redgrave. The story itself is a pas de deux, or better, a psychological duel between Maria (Redgrave), who was 4 years old when the holocaust in Poland took her parents and siblings, and David (Eisenberg), a not terribly successful New York writer who comes to visit his second cousin in a Polish town near the north coast. Director Kip Fagan makes us believe that the most unlikely events we see really happened.
A charmer and good fun, albeit dated, Anita Loos ‘ 1946 play tracks the lives of the denizens of a bar in Newark, NJ. It centers around the transformation of Addie Bemis (a very charming Mary Bacon), who starts out as a rather tight prudish young woman, and ends up singing on the bar. The magic ingredient, of course, is love.
I met Benazir Bhutto in 1987 when she was leading the Pakistan People’s Party in a national parliamentary campaign. I traveled with her on a motorcade in Sailkot, in the Punjab, northern Pakistan, where she was mobbed by supporters. From the top of the reporters’ minivan in front of hers, I could see crowds along the way shouting, chanting, some holding photos of her, young men dancing to loud piped music in front of the crawling vehicles, flags waving. Women were watching from atop one and two-story buildings along the route. It took hours instead of 20 minutes to get to a stadium where she addressed a mass rally.
David Ives is a master of subtle intellectual comedy. We saw that most recently in “Venus in Fur,” a feminist reimagining/twisting of the Sacher-Masoch classic, and a few years back in “Is He Dead?,” adapted from a Mark Twain story about an artist who fakes death to elevate the price of his paintings. But earlier, he had written a series of one-acts that were presented twenty years ago and that we are lucky to see again. John Rando’s direction is spot-on, letting no grass grow between the laughs. The actors are an ensemble and connect as if they were used to finishing each other’s sentences.
It’s rural Ireland in 1936. The house is comfortably lower middle class, with a lace-covered table and a fireplace mantle topped with old photos. It’s a picture of the times. And so are the personal relations. This feminist work by Teresa Deevy, an Irish playwright who wrote in the 1930s, is about a spunky young woman whose only way out was to marry an older man. Director Jonathan Bank stages it as if it were an old movie, with no modern lens.
A.R. Gurney wrote this play in 1991, when the issue of AIDS was a hot button. The story takes off when Sam (Peter Rini), a State Department undersecretary of state for political affairs, returns to his prep-school to give a commencement address. Now in his early 40s, he had been the “old boy” of a younger student named Perry, charged with showing the new boy the rounds.
This is a children’s story that cuts to the quick and speaks to the heart, that fascinates and shocks with its creativity and is definitely for adults. Besides that, it’s a musical, with country and blues sounds and songs about woe, jazz and modern dancing, punning wit and horrific metaphors. There’s even a classical painting that comes alive.
Interesting how misogynistic this 1955 melodrama feels in 2013. In Tennessee Williams’ view, the men are victims and the women are perpetrators. That fits into Williams’ theme about Brick (Benjamin Walker), the former school football star, being a victim of homophobia. Except, in a curious turnaround, the wound is self-inflicted when his wife Maggie (Scarlett Johansson), forces Brick and his college buddy to confront their relationship or maybe just their unspoken desires.