Sarah Treem’s A Feminine Ending tells the story of Amanda, a young graduate of music who wants to be a composer, but is confronted with a world where there is not necessarily a place for a woman. This seems not to be a problem for the playwright herself: Treem’s masters the art of intelligent and insightful dialogues and some of the images evoked in her text are extraordinarily sensitive, although some twists in the plot seem contrived and rushed, such as Amanda’s mailman “old flame”‘s explanation of linguistics or the too-perfect-to-be-believable parallel between mother and daughter’s artistic gifts. That said, if one overlooks the sharp angles, there really is a lot to enjoy in “A Feminine Ending”.
As usual in casts in which older and younger generations of actors are together on stage, the veterans do overshadow the newcomers. Both Marsha Mason and Richard Masur offer disarmingly spontaneous and touching performance as Amanda’s parents, adding naturalness often missing in the lines written for their roles. Gillian Jacobs tends to underline her dramatic gestures too heavily in the kind of self-explanatory acting often found in American theatres, but it cannot be denied she has an engaging presence, an excellent voice and is also really cute. I do hope to see her again on stage. Alec Beard has the difficult task of portraying the rather cliché-ed role of the rock-star-to-be fiancé. The lack of depth and predictability of this character is actually the weak-link of the play, and only a more experienced actor would have found variety where there is none. Joe Paulick has more luck with the mailman boyfriend from high school days, bue he also succombs to the sitcom acting-style.
Blair Brown’s direction is praiseworthy in its directness and economy of means. One can see he gave his actors all the space they needed, what is particularly positive in the case of Mason. Cameron Anderson’s simple but effective sceneries offer smart solutions fo the different settings.