LaLa Cochran and Andrew Benator may not be the two greatest actors Atlanta theatergoers have ever seen, exactly, although both of them certainly rank among the better and more experienced members of our local talent pool. Nor is it intended as a personal slight against Kelly Criss (who’s best known for her acting) to suggest that she might not be the finest or most qualified director in town, either.
But, even if they were the be-all and end-all of everything, you still can’t help doubting whether that would be enough to lessen or overcome the dreadful mediocrity of their material in Aurora Theatre’s “Women in Jeopardy.” Could, say, the likes of Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks and Martin Scorsese have spun gold out of Wendy MacLeod’s stupefying comedy? In a word: No.
The show is quite erroneously billed as “‘Thelma and Louise’ meets ‘The First Wives Club,’” inasmuch as it sorely lacks any trace of the one movie’s feisty feminism or the other’s chic sophistication. The play involves a trio of jaded Salt Lake City divorcees, and the ostensibly hysterical high jinks that ensue after one of them, Cochran’s Liz, disrupts their weekly “hen party” by bringing along a new boyfriend, Benator’s Jackson.
He’s an obnoxious dentist whose pet name for her is “Boobs,” so it’s of little wonder when he’s eventually described as a “pervier poor man’s Woody Allen.” By the same dubious token, however, MacLeod’s female characters are basically just variations of a dumber poor woman’s Lucy Ricardo or Ethel Mertz.
Once they realize that his dental hygienist has gone missing, the presumed victim of a serial killer, Liz’s friends Mary (out-of-town actress Kerrie Seymour) and Jo (Kate Kneeland, a late replacement to the cast) jump to the preposterously far-fetched and painfully unfunny conclusion that Jackson is the culprit.
Had the script been written by a man, at least you could dismiss him as a sexist pig for his depiction of these women. Besides the oblivious Liz, who’s referred to at one point as “so stupid she deserves to die” (ha ha), there’s her clueless teenage daughter, Amanda (Caroline Arapoglou), a role mostly defined by her “single-digit SAT scores.”
MacLeod is an equal-opportunity offender with regard to her male characters, too. In addition to Jackson, Benator also plays a police detective, with a dim-witted wink to Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau. And Justin Walker portrays Amanda’s lame-brained boyfriend, sort of a snowboarding equivalent to Sean Penn’s surfer dude from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” and heavy on the “whoas.”
Sisters and peerless Atlanta scenic designers Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay earn the only legitimate “whoa” in the show. Having embellished many a production over the years, their work here is of singular note. Midway through the second act, a well-appointed kitchen set disassembles to reveal a remote rocky canyon.
Otherwise, audiences are advised to beware “Women in Jeopardy,” or proceed at their own risk.
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