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Clare Boothe Luce’s Classic Comedy ‘The Women’

Exploring the topics of marriage, bisexuality and adultery with honesty and sharp wit



Published:

Bob Seary

Written in 1936, this comedy about marital infidelity and revenge is still funny and relevant today.

The ruthless world of Manhattan socialites and social climbers, their pampered lives, power struggles, friendships and rivalries, and the gossip that both feeds and damages their relationships are exposed in the play that The New York Times has described as “A glorious cat-clawing rampage.”

Though now regarded as a camp classic, beneath the wise-cracking, the backstabbing and the melodrama is an insightful and sympathetic study of human nature at its best and worst.

Mrs Mary Haines seemingly has it all: a happy marriage to wealthy stockbroker Stephen, two perfect children, a smart Manhattan home and a coterie of entertaining girlfriends with days made up of bridge parties and visits to the beauty salon. 

When Stephen’s affair with ‘shop girl’ Crystal Allen is exposed, Mary’s life falls apart and before long, on the urging of her friends, she’s off to Reno for a quickie divorce.

But Mary finds a strength she didn’t know she had and determines to fight and win her man back.

Boothe Luce’s play was remarkable for its all-female cast and ‘insider’s look’ at a world unknown to those outside its privileged walls. Eavesdropping in beauty salons, boutiques and the powder-rooms of fashionable restaurants, she picked up the essence of Park Avenue life and crafted a series of memorable characters, both flawed and funny. Though the men in their lives are an ever-present driver for the events of the play, they are never seen. It is the ‘ladies who lunch’ who form the nucleus of this world.

Marriage as a means of social advancement for women, the role of children in relationships, and controversial topics for the times such as bisexuality, adultery and divorce are all explored with sharp wit and remorseless honesty.

Most people will be familiar with George Cukor’s superb 1939 screen adaptation, featuring some of Hollywood’s greatest stars: Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell, Joan Crawford, Paulette Goddard and Joan Fontaine. Now New Theatre gives audiences the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate the brilliant play that started it all, a classic 1930s comedy of manners.  

The Women
Location:
New Theatre, 542 King St, Newtown
Season: 11 August – 12 September (Thu – Sat 7:30pm, Sun 5pm)
Previews: Tues 11 and Wed 12 Aug 7.30pm; Final performance: Sat 12 Sep 5pm
Cost: $17-32
Book at http://newtheatre.org.au/the-women/

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