Theater Review: "Susan and God" flirts with domestic games
Theater review by Misha Berson: Taproot Theatre's revival of "Susan and God," a 1930s Broadway play, mixes classic "women's issues" with a healthy dose of religion and wit. The play runs through Oct. 25 at Seattle's Taproot Theatre.
Seattle Times theater critic
"Susan and God"By Rachel Crothers, plays Wednesdays-Saturdays through Oct. 25 at Taproot Theatre, 204 N. 85th St., Seattle; $10-$33 (206-781-9707 or www.taproottheatre.org).
Theater Review |
Broadway was not inhospitable to women writers in its pre-World War II heydays. There was especially room for female playwrights with wit, style — and a message about where women's priorities belonged.
"Susan and God," a Broadway hit from the 1930s now in a lively revival at Taproot Theatre, is an interesting case in point.
Rachel Crothers penned more than two dozen plays, and had a flair for creating forceful, glamorous female figures and probing "women's issues" — marriage, divorce, motherhood.
All of the above (plus religion) factor into "Susan and God." A play best-known by its 1940 film version, starring Joan Crawford, it is a dry martini of flippant humor, shrewd satire and conventional moralizing.
In classic drawing-room-comedy fashion, we hear a great deal about wealthy matron Susan (Lisa Peretti) before her first entrance.
Her friends, well-heeled and at their leisure, take a gossipy interest in Susan's troubled marriage to Barrie (Don Brady), an allegedly incorrigible alcoholic, and her arm's-length parenting of adolescent daughter Blossom (Austen Case).
Susan's family, and her pals, have assorted reasons to envy or resent her. Particularly after she returns home from a European jaunt atingle with evangelical fervor.
She's found God, it seems, via a British religious cult that urges members to bare deep secrets — brutal encounter-group style. Susan's set reacts at first like a circle of lightly Americanized Noël Coward characters, sharp claws and tongues at the ready. More sympathetic are her family, Brady's well-drawn Barrie — a beaten-down man desperate to save his marriage — and young Blossom, etched by Case with winsome sweetness and touching insecurity.
There is more at stake in "Susan and God" than dueling banter. Several shaky couplings are at risk, including a bold affair by the not-yet-divorced Irene (stylish Heather Hawkins), and an unwise marriage by the moneyed, aging playboy Hutchins (Nolan Palmer).
And Susan stands to lose a great deal herself, if she can't wake up and smell the cocktails.
Under Scott Nolte's direction, "Susan and God" mostly clips along smartly, with the cast handling all but the most dated dialogue smoothly.
There's one overcooked performance: Peretti's Susan. She comes off as such a shrill, flighty egotist, it's amazing she has any friends at all — even ambivalent ones. (To be fair, Crawford is also annoyingly mannered as the cinematic Susan.)
But when Peretti simmers down a bit, you can discern something Crothers likely did not mean to stress: the frustration of a bored, unfulfilled society wife who has found an outlet (albeit the wrong one) for her considerable energies.
"Susan and God," like many a female-centered drama of this ilk, can only end with a woman making "the right choice" — to put family duties first.
It is fascinating, and not altogether convincing, how Crothers brings Susan around to that.
Misha Berson: email@example.com
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