THE BASICS: The play with the full title of TO THE NEW GIRL FROM THE FORMER MRS. _____: SOUND ADVICE FOR MY HUSBAND’S NEW WIFE OR MISTRESS by Samantha Macher, directed by Leyla Gentil, presented by First Look Buffalo in association with the New Phoenix Theatre, runs through October 3, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, and Sundays at 2 at The New Phoenix Theatre on the Park, 95 Johnson Park (853-1344) www.newphoenixtheatre.org. Tickets through First Look via BrownPaperTickets are $25, Seniors and Students $15 or call 1-800-838-3006. Pre and post show adult beverages available at The New Phoenix Theatre with donation. First Look Covid Policy: All patrons must show proof of Covid-19 vaccination on the day of the performance to be admitted to the theatre. Proof includes a vaccination card or an Excelsior pass along with photo ID. All patrons must wear a mask when in the theater. Tickets may be rescheduled but will not be refunded. Runtime: 90 minutes without intermission.
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: Ten actresses take on ten roles, one at a time, in ten minute monologues talking to the unseen “other women” with whom their husbands are now involved.
THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: The play was developed specifically in 2011 for LA’s SkyPilot Theatre Company by then 23-year-old Samantha Macher. She created the play prompted by that company’s wealth of talented actresses who noted a lack of good female roles. And it features a wealth of Buffalo’s talented actresses.
We meet, in order:
ZOE (Jessie Miller): A young lady in a kinky relationship finds out that there’s more than one woman in her town willing to do what she has been willing to do.
MIRIAM (Kathleen Recchione): A Jewish grandmother finds out at Passover that her husband has not only fallen in love but is getting married to a Catholic girl he met on a business trip. Oy vey!
BETHANY (Vanessa Shevat): A “good Christian girl” discovers her pastor husband’s new love could threaten his very, very lucrative televangelism career and with it her lifestyle.
SHEILA (Davida Tolbert): A woman who is unable to conceive her husband’s child enjoys the last laugh.
FAYE (Ciara Davie): The naive wife of a convicted total loser writes his new girlfriend to ask for her engagement ring back…or else.
ALEXIS (Kari Becker): A woman counsels her daughter’s nanny that her husband’s advances are now a part of her household responsibilities.
KAREN (Kathryn Schneider): A teacher tells her student who is sleeping with her husband how the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.
MELANIE (Pandora Kew): Melanie is beyond angry and warns her abusive husband’s mistress to stay far, far away from her.
ELISSA (Sarah Emmerling): Her husband’s old flame threatens their marriage.
HARRIET (Mary Craig): Her husband in a nursing home has dementia and Harriet reminisces about their lives together.
A each monologue lasts about 10 minutes you get a little break in between and then we’re off again as the intensity of material slowly builds as we move from first to ninth. In fact, the eighth (MELANIE) and ninth (ELISSA) were so intense that applause seemed so inappropriate at the time. Yes, we wanted to approve of the performance, but not the subject matter. Following those monologues “a moment,” or some chocolate or wine or a hug seemed necessary.
Everyone brought her A-game, but Pandora Kew (who will be seen next spring on this stage as “Honey” in WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?) was assigned one of the most dramatic roles. And she got so into it I actually worried that she might throw up on stage.
In the lobby was information about suicide prevention and included in your program was a wallet card from the Family Justice Center “DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND RISK OF HOMICIDE…Know the Red Flags…DON’T DO NOTHING…YOUR RESPONSE COULD SAVE A LIFE.” You’ll find out why that information is provided.
Let me quickly add that this play is not, as I was mildly worried that it might be, an exercise in male bashing.
Let me quickly add that this play is not, as I was mildly worried that it might be, an exercise in male bashing. These are not lectures or diatribes or screes. They are incredibly honest revelations of what has gone on behind closed doors in “good neighborhoods” between adults, sometimes consenting adults (consenting but not necessarily liking the situation) and just as often in non-consensual situations.
True, the men don’t get to “defend” their actions, and thank goodness for that. We don’t need to hear their nonsense and, anyway, it’s not about them. This play is about the women they have harmed. I was reminded of an edgy greeting card I saw. On the cover it read “In every divorce there are two sides.” Inside it read: “Yours and that a**hole’s.” For the women, this was a night of hearing the “your” side and not the a**hole’s side.
So how do you wrap up an evening that’s been building in intensity? With the tenth and final monologue, delivered by Mary Craig, which was bittersweet. Mary Craig, who often plays one of the sisters in various NUNSENSE musicals, was soft and understanding and brought the play to a good conclusion, a “safe landing” after a very bumpy night.
WHAT’S NEXT: First Look Buffalo Stage Productions will offer THE OPPONENT by Brett Neveu about the world of small time boxing. That’s next Spring 2022.
Director Leyla Gentil will return as Stage Manager to The Brazen Faced Varlets (Buffalo’s women’s theater company) for ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT by Shirley Lauro. It’s about German gentile (non-Jewish) women before, during, and after the Third Reich. Shows: 10/8, 10/9, 10/15, 10/16, 10/22, 10/23 at 8:00 pm and 10/24 at 2 pm at the Alleyway’s Main Theater – 1 Curtain Up Alley, Buffalo, NY.
The New Phoenix Theatre features four plays for 2021/2022 beginning with LOOPED, running October 28 through November 20, directed by Richard Lambert starring James Cichocki, Elliot Fox, and Julie Kittsley as Tallulah Bankhead. In late November there’s a co-production with Subversive Theater Collective, in March 2022 THE CHILDREN is a co-production with Red Thread Theatre, and from April 28 to May 28th the NPT will mount WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? by Edward Albee.
Live theater is back!
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!