Marrying George Clooney: Confessions from a Midlife Crisis
nytheatre.com review by Bess Rowen
March 2, 2012
In a culture that glorifies youth and seeks to prevent and hide aging, it is rare that we see a show devoted entirely to women over fifty. CAP21’s current production of Marrying George Clooney: Confessions from a Midlife Crisis tells the story of three women who share both individual and collective stories about daily life after menopause. Told as a series of monologues and dialogues about everything from Googling old boyfriends to taking care of aging parents to fantasizing about how they each might come to marry George Clooney, three actresses take us through the less discussed aspects of women of a certain age.
The story is adapted from Amy Ferris’s memoir of the same name, making the collection of scenes feel personal even when they have an obvious theatricality. The stories cover a broad range of material, but the show sometimes seems like a series of scenes and sometimes has aspects of a linear narrative. There are some very funny moments, especially for a specific demographic, but I do not think that the show feels like a completed piece of work just yet.
Oftentimes I have not had the exact experiences of the characters in a piece of theatre, but this does not mean that I cannot sympathize with them. Though I could connect with the three women in Marrying George Clooney, I also had a distinct feeling that this show catered to a certain collection of experiences and behaviors that characterize the “average” middle-aged white woman in the US today.
There is a specific audience in mind for this show, and I believe that the subject matter is important to have available the theatergoing public. Actresses Eliza Ventura, Meghan Duffy, and Colleen Zenk play the characters known only as Woman 1, Woman 2, and Woman 3. They each bring a different type of mature woman to life, creating a dynamic along the lines of what would happen if Diane Keaton, Megan Mullally, and Rue McClanahan got together to chat.
In terms of acting, the performances are a little uneven, which is due to both Frank Ventura’s direction and the script itself. Duffy is the standout, and her solid comic timing and sustained energy make her easy to watch all the way through. Ventura’s decision to play up both Zenk’s theatricality and Ventura’s underplayed acting, which are both part and parcel with their characters, makes for a play that cannot quite decide on one style.
This inability to commit to a particular theatrical world is continued by the design of the play. Jon Knust’s scenic design covers the stage with a series of green digital numbers reminiscent of The Matrix. Along with three TVs, which aid the actors in their storytelling by providing images that supplement the verbal descriptions, the set is set in a very technological, modern world that is only referenced a few times.
The digital screens, over-literal sound effects, and non-linear plot would all make for interesting choices in isolation, but put together the show seems to be performing its own midlife crisis. An interesting concept, in practice the piece does not quite come together in the way that other memoir-to-play transitions have.
In the meantime, the play is a place for women of, or over, a certain age to see themselves represented on stage, which is important in my opinion. The camaraderie on stage is even replicated between performers and audience members. This is evident in the moments where the intimate conversational aspect of the piece allows for and encourages audience participation in a friendly and relaxed way.
These moments of connection also lead into the thematic shift from the lives of these three women to their relationships with their mothers over time. This is a change that brings in experiences from shopping with a mother as a young girl to dealing with an aging mother with dementia. These are experiences that a much broader range of audience members might have had, and it was these moments that were the most effective for me.
All in all, Marrying George Clooney: Confessions from a Midlife Crisis is a play characterized much more by the second half of its title. If this idea appeals to you for a show, then you should certainly go see this production. If that does not sound like your idea of a fun night, then you can’t say the show didn’t warn you. Either way, I am happy that there is a space for women to perform their own post-menopausal-modernism.