Saturday, 24 May 2014

The Female of the Species at The Pavilion Theatre

 L to R: Sandy Velini, Soran Khoshnow, Paul Houchin, Laren Pank, Larry Murphy and Melanie Robinson in Female of the Species.
The Female of the Species
Cast: Sandy Valini, Lauren Pank, Melanie Robinson, Larry Murphy, Soran Khoshnow, Paul Houchin
Director: Valerie Miller
The Pavilion Theatre: May 2 - 24, 2014

A scrumptiously wicked comedy that proves the female of the species is not only deadlier but wittier than the male.

With a tag line like that I knew this comedy would appeal to every one of my inner feminist sensibilities. The play centres around writer Margot Mason (Sandy Velini) who has made a long and successful career being a trail-blazer for women's rights and the feminist cause. But Margot has writers block and as the play opens with her on the phone to her agent Theo Hanover (Paul Houchin) where she eloquently tells him to 'fuck off', we sense she not too pleased about it.

Enter Molly Rivers (Lauren Pank), a slightly awkward university student who has read everything Margot has written. But what at first appears to be a devoted fan suddenly turns ugly when we discover that Molly's mother gave her up and threw herself under a train clutching a copy of Margot's book. Having conformed to all Margot's advise, Molly blames the ageing author for everything that has gone wrong in her life, including her mother's death. She is there to kill her. Brandishing a gun she chains her to the table. Things get slightly hairy once Margot's daughter Tess Thornton (Melanie Robinson) arrives, followed later by her husband Bryan (Larry Murphy). Each has an opinion on how Margot has ruined their lives which she must endure as she remains chained to the table. 

The appearance of taxi driver Frank (Soran Khoshnow) and Margot's agent Theo increases the hilarity as Frank manages to get the gun off Molly, who keeps insisting 'but this is my hostage situation,' and proceeds to rant about how women have no idea what they want, but he knows - 'women want two things from a man: foreplay and to do their tax.'

Sandy Valini is exceptional as Margot, her stage presence and comic timing was the glue that held the rest of the cast together. At one point, when a piece of plastic fell off the gun Molly was holding, Margot commented 'God, we're falling apart' and once Molly had replaced the piece she asked ever-so politely 'Does it still work?' This unscripted and hilarious moment reflects Valini's experience on the stage.

Soran Khoshnow as Frank, the disgruntled taxi driver, was perfectly cast. He walked a fine line between being a chauvinist and making a fair point, all with comic flare. The play concludes with a few surprises - Tess and Bryan split up and Tess starts making moves on Frank, Theo offers Molly a contract to write a book, we discover that in fact homosexual Theo is actually Tess's father and just as the curtains begin to close Margot drops a book on top of the carelessly discarded gun and accidentally shoots herself.  

The Female of the Species was not the ode to feminism I was expecting. It did debate many feminist ideals and principles such as career and family but it also had an underlying message about making your own choices. Molly's character demonstrated what happens when the ideals of someone else are taken to the extreme and while ultimately Margot was not responsible for her mother's suicide, it's a valuable lesson to remember that words are powerful.    
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