Review: "Conceiving Women", with 30 years of repressed anguish

The women of Sugarbaker and Associates are ready to unload, and it’s easy to see why – the last time we heard from them was almost 30 ye...


The women of Sugarbaker and Associates are ready to unload, and it’s easy to see why – the last time we heard from them was almost 30 years ago, when the hit sitcom “Designing Women Was interrupted. That’s a long time to keep things bottled. But now Julia, Suzanne and Mary Jo are back (Charlene is mostly on hiatus) and rekindle the flame of Southern-style fraternity in a new room.

You read that correctly: “new” and “play”.

With a few exceptions like “The Addams Family” and “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical”, most TV adaptations to the stage tend to be parodies, more or less permissible – think “By the bay! Musical comedy ! and drag versions of “The Golden Girls.”

The “Conceive women” The first production at TheaterSquared in Fayetteville, Ark. – a capture of which is now streaming – is the work of the creator of the television series, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason. And it’s a freshly made script, not some old stories sewn together. The ladies of Atlanta aren’t showing off their signature chunky clothes and hair because the play is set in 2020. Our girls have barely aged, which makes the project less of a sequel than a reboot. (Why should Batman and Spider-Man be the only ones who can repeatedly reinvent themselves?)

Set at the time of last year’s presidential election, “Designing Women” makes Bloodworth-Thomason look like it reignited its intellectual property for the sole purpose of getting rid of a lot of anger and frustration. The show (directed by her husband, Harry Thomason) trades the plot for a series of scenes that are just vehicles for a barrage of references to all of the other hot issues, slogans or trigger events (for liberals) in the Trump era, including and certainly not limited to voter suppression efforts, covfefe, sexual harassment, QAnon, Covid-19, boat parades and, of course, Donald J. Trump.

The play gets underway – so to speak, because, again, no intrigue – when everyone’s favorite interior design company welcomes new receptionist, Haley McFee (slapstick genius Kim Matula). She’s the little sister of Charlene Frazier (Debra Capps) but most importantly, she’s a well-meaning naïve whose Christian beliefs don’t quite match the leftist politics of Julia Sugarbaker (Carmen Cusack) and her associates. Mary Jo Shively (Sarah Colonna) and Cléo Bouvier (Carla Renata).

The new employee is particularly baffled by Cléo, an outspoken black lesbian who is the cousin of one of the original characters, Anthony Bouvier. “Her number one hobby is praying that I don’t burn in hell,” Cleo says of Haley. “Because it’s the number one hobby for all evangelicals. It’s like their golf.

Ba-dum-bosse. And there’s a lot more where it came from, as the play is made up almost exclusively of jokes – and since Bloodworth-Thomason no longer has to deal with CBS prudes, she can use all the profanity and only sexual senses. that she wants. The amount of wisecracks means a good number of them land, with Renata and an excellent Amy Pietz (like Julia’s self-centered, conceited sister, Suzanne) making particularly tasty meals.

There are a few fun bits of physical comedy as well, including during the scenes between Julia and an anti-Trump Republican by the name of Wynn Dollarhyde (R. Ward Duffy) – their romance is similar to the hot, heavy relationship between the Frank- talk liberal Diane Lockhart and conservative Silver Fox Kurt McVeigh in “The Good Wife”.

Still, rhythm, or the lack of it, is an issue, especially for those of us who broadcast at home, without the company of laughing strangers provided by a theater. The show is uncomfortably too long at two and a half hours – certainly not the length of a sitcom – and sags when it should be. Bloodworth-Thomason might be able to get more orderly runtime if she writes a sequel set under a less intentionally inflammatory president.

Conceiving Women
Until October 24 at TheaterSquared in Fayetteville, Ark .; digital broadcast until October 24; theater2.org. Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Review: "Conceiving Women", with 30 years of repressed anguish
Review: "Conceiving Women", with 30 years of repressed anguish
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