This is the final weekend for the play, "Round-Heeled Woman" at Z Space here in San Francisco. The play is by Jane Prowse from the memoir by Jane Juska and relates the adventures of a 66 year old woman---Jane---who puts an persnal ad in the New York Review of Books announcing her desire (after 30 years of celibacy) to have as much passionate sex as she can before she's 67. What a great romp in that wonderful 19th century sense!
Along with a fun story you also get Sharon Gless, the blonde half of the "Cagney & Lacey" cop show, one of the earliest (1982-88) TV series featuring two women. The show benefitted from the odd feminist belief that women are people too and actually capable of both thinking and action. Gless was the tough one...hard drinking...fast talking, and sexy. This play gives her a chance to broaden her repertoir---she's outrageous, motherly, vulnerable, intellectual and bawdy all at the same time. And she's still very sexy.
Reviewers responded to the play like it was an incantation meant to raise Lucifer from the dead. I guess that's what the purveyors of opinion in the general art world think about old people in general; old women in particular and most especially of old women who are interested in sex. We are the devil incarnate, our evil so dazzling it prevents recognition of a good script with a funny and touching premise as well as a really strong, versatile cast and a fabulous set as well as a full audience laughing out loud.
Despite critics' failure to overcome their prejudice and lack of imagination it's worth getting yourself to Z Space before Sunday or begging them to bring the show back!
Sharon Gless still has that thoaty voice that makes you think she must be smoking cigarettes off camera. And as much as the camera loves her---the stage does even more. The rest of the cast is made up of strong stage veterans who dance through multiple roles and Gless holds her own with all of them. Watching the ripples of expectation then humiliation play across her face is phenomenal, no matter how many rows back you are. When her character tries to squelch her attraction to a way too young man Gless moves fluidly through openness, flirtation, embarrasment, and repulsion, evoking a viceral response in the audience. One moment she's the ingenue in the throes of sexual blossoming, the next she's the angry English teacher!
Being a retired English teacher opens the door for the arrival of Miss MacKenzie , the epnonymous heroine of the 19th century novel by Anthony Trollope; she takes this journey with Jane making it seem timeless. And it is timeless and timely.
How do women take control of our lives, keep our humour and be brave? Especially when most of the culture is NOT cheering us on. We might just imagine the courage of Jane Juska as she placed her ad. Or imagine Sharon Gless as she steps out on stage facing a new professional challenge and bringing the house down. As the Michelle Shocked song (currently appropriated by a popular TV ad) says: "When I grow up I'm going to be an old woman." Not a bad goal.