Friday, May 25, 2018

Memo From the RTC: Mansplaining in “Lovers and Other Strangers”

My final column on Lovers and Other Strangers, a comedy - of sorts - but really with a serious tone about underlying relationships. Written by Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna in the late 60's- early 70's - the more times I saw it the deeper it seemed. It even brings up an interesing twist of the use of metoo. We were honored to have Renee Taylor at the May 12 performance.


Memo From the RTC: Mansplaining in “Lovers and Other Strangers”
By Norm Scott

Mansplaining (a blend of the word man and the informal form splaining of the verb explaining) means "(of a man) to comment on or explain something to a woman in a condescending, overconfident, and often inaccurate or oversimplified manner"… Wikipedia

As I watched the final performance of the RTC production of “Lovers and Other Strangers” at a sold out house packed with seniors who laughed themselves silly because they got most of the references from the last-60s, early 70s time period, I realized that in each of the five vignettes, a common thread that ran through them all was a guy working very hard to manipulate a gal. The opening sequence has Jerry, having just picked up Brenda at Maxwell’s Plum, doing what he can to get her into bed – until she turns the tables on him.



Next comes married Hal, having an affair with Cathy who wants him to leave his wife and marry her, trying to have his cake and eat it too. Hal twists every bit of logic to convince Cathy not to get married and remain his mistress, evincing outrage that she might cheat on him and finally deferring blame to the guy she is dating for their situation.

The third scene has long-time married couple Johnny and Wilma going to bed. She wants sex. He doesn’t. A battle of man vs woman ensues with Johnny complaining that she has robbed him of his masculinity and absolving himself of all blame. After a battle she soothes his spirit – with no little mockery – and they still don’t have sex. I heard some women in the audience commenting how glad they are not to be married.

The fourth scene features an engaged young couple, with the man, Mike (an excellent Dante Rei), showing up at fiancé Susan’s apartment at 4 in the morning whining about how he wants to break their engagement since getting married is too much pressure on him. Susan’s reactions consist of tossing her flaming red hair and making facial gestures (a tribute to the acting talents of Adele Wendt), until she finally lures him out of his mood by acting as if everything is normal. I wouldn’t give that marriage very long.

Finally, we have married couple Bea and Frank and their son Richie and his wife Joan, who are about to divorce despite Bea and Frank’s heavy handed attempts to talk them out of it. Frank and Bea are not happy but tell the young couple happiness doesn’t matter. “If you try too hard to be happy, you only end up miserable,” says Bea. Frank, who cheated at one time, doesn’t take any blame but places it on Bea’s sister Pauline for telling her.

Now, let’s point out that these stories are not just a one way street as all the women play some role in their situation. Is there such a thing as womansplaining?

Well, the next show is Nine to Five, directed by Susan Corning who played Cathy. The set is being built and expect a spectacular cast of 30, with more than a few superb dancers, a few who are grads of the LaGuardia school dance program, to blow the roof off when it opens July 13th and runs for three weekends. This show will sell out for sure so check out the website: www.rockawaytheatrecompany.org

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