The Female Of The Species
LOS ANGELES REVIEW by Willard Manus
Feminist icon Margot Mason (hilariously portrayed by Annette Bening) is lampooned by Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith in THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES, now in its West Coast premiere at the Geffen Playhouse. The comedy portrays Mason as a Germaine Greer-like writer who once wrote a feminist manifesto calling for women to make war against men in the bedroom and kitchen. Sexual and personal liberation was her battle cry and it inspired a generation of young females to take to the gender barricades and duke it out with their boyfriends, husbands and fathers.
The manifesto became a bestseller and made Mason rich and famous. She wrote more feminist tracts, got a fat university teaching job, and became a talk-show personality whose supersized ego was matched only by her fatuous views on life and love. A rebel turned pompous pundit, she soon took herself so seriously that even her disciples couldn't stomach her. In THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES, one of her ex-students, Molly Rivers (Merritt Weaver), is so disgusted and disillusioned that she breaks into her country home and threatens to shoot Margot.
What might have been a hostage drama is played for broad laughs in THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES, especially when Margot's daughter Tess (Mireille Enos) shows up and begins berating her for being a lousy mom. Tess is followed by Bryan (David Arquette), her geeky husband, then by Frank (Josh Stamberg), a macho cabdriver. The final intruder is Theo (Julian Sands), Margot's publisher, who desperately needs her to finish her new book and save his company from bankruptcy.
Problem is, Margot has writer's block, a psychological condition that's made worse by the five oddballs running around in her study. The playwright pokes fun at all of them--especially Margot and her contradictory views of 21st century feminism. Bening, in fright wig and glasses, has a ball as the acid-tongued, outrageous Margot, and she is backed up rousingly by her fellow-actors, each one of whom knows how to make a farce work. Randall Arney directed. (Geffen Playhouse, 10886 LeConte Ave., Westwood. 310-208-5454, geffenplayhouse.com).