By Rich Kane
By Joel Beers
By LP Hastings
By Dave Barton
By Patrice Wirth Marsters
By Erin DeWitt
By Taylor Hamby
By LP Hastings
Extra, extra! Get your life-affirming comedy here! Starring Mandy Moore (or Jennifer Aniston) as a young woman trying to find herself while teetering between two lovable, clueless male suitors (both played by Matthew McConaughey) and arguing with over-the-top mom Diane Keaton (or Kathy Bates), who feels life has passed her by . . . oh, wait—wrong life-affirming comedy.
Though it delivers a few snappy comebacks and one interesting diatribe on women and linguistics, Timothy Douglas' staging of Sarah Treem's glossy, shallow Feminine Ending at SCR is little more than a rehash of the played-out vanilla comedy plots in which the above actors have recently starred. This time around, oboist and struggling composer Amanda is going through a mid-life crisis—at age 25!—allowing creative blocks and insecurities to get the best of her. She's already decided she can't achieve her dream of becoming Beethoven because there are no legendary female composers (quitter!) and has resigned herself to marrying Jack, her American Idol-esque fiance who's about to hit paydirt. Meanwhile, her formerly feminist mother (who gave up painting at—gasp!—exactly the age of 25!) decides to leave Amanda's father and start over. When Amanda goes home to reason with mom, old high-school boyfriend Billy shows up and boinks Amanda, creating yet another twist in her loopy quest to chisel into stone who she really is . . . um, again, at age 25.
While Treem's goody-two-shoes story seems an implausibility (a classical composer hooking up with a metrosexual pop idol?), it's really the "women are still repressed by men" theme that bugs. In fact, Jack does not give Amanda career/relationship ultimatums—he's very supportive. And while living in New York and being financially secure and with a hot guy might seem like obstacles, it's obvious to the rest of us that the only problem Amanda has is with herself. The "fear of failure" point is but a shadow, however, and instead, "female oppression by choice" and general youthful flightiness are spotlighted. Therefore, we need to ask: Do young women really still define themselves by their men? Do they actually abandon certain career choices just because no woman has yet cracked that glass ceiling? And, as this play suggests, do women really have to fly solo in order to focus on themselves? What a bunch of wimps! For most of us, balancing our emotional lives with our careers is a never-ending task, one we choose to do in order to "have it all." Concessions are made on both sides—but Treem's play never touches on this lived-by-millions reality. Instead, we get Amanda whining and fretting about how she has destroyed her life.
Heh. Just wait till her thirties.
Feminine Ending at South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 708-5500; www.scr.org. Tues.-Sun., 7:45 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m. Through Jan. 27. $20-$62.