Ladies of the Corridor

  • Date:
    September 1, 2005
    Review by:
    Polly Wittenberg

    Written by: Dorothy Parker & Arnaud d�Usseau
    Directed by: Dan Wackerman
    Cast: Kelly AuCoin, Ron Badgen, Hal Blankenship, Patrick Boyd, Peggy Cowles, Jo Ann Cunningham, Dawn Evans, Libby George, Susan Jeffries, Andy Phelan, Carolyn Seiff and Susan Varon.
    Synopsis: A behind closed doors look at New York City�s Hotel Marlow. Following the death of her husband, Lulu Ames moves into the hotel and immediately embarks on a romance with a much younger man. Mildred Tynan, another resident, has walked out on an abusive husband and now finds herself drinking too much in the company of a 'helpful' stranger. Grace Nichols lives down the hall. She keeps her middle-aged son tied to her apron strings with the threat of exposing a terrible secret. These women, along with several other colorful characters, cross paths in the corridor of this genteel establishment, where a skeleton is hung in every closet.
     

    It�s more unusual that you�d think for a play to remind you that the �good ol� days� weren�t so great. But that�s the primary sensation I felt after seeing the Peccadillo Theater Company�s production of The Ladies of the Corridor by Dorothy Parker and Arnaud D�Usseau now playing at the East 13th Street Theater.

    Set in a New York residential hotel in 1953, the characters are mainly widows of a certain class and pretension; also their families, friends and attendants. This constricted world full of shared pre-feminist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, upper-crust �family values�, serves as the backdrop for three barely-interlocking and somewhat-predictable stories of women�s lives after their marriages are over.

    First, there�s Lulu Ames (Susan Jeffries), a gorgeous middle-aged widow newly arrived from Ohio, in search of the excitement that has been missing from her Mid-Western life. Not surprisingly, that excitement takes of form of involvement with a much younger man (Kelly Aucoin). Then there�s the wheelchair-bound Brahmin Grace Nichols (Peggy Cowles) and her ever-do-devoted son Charles (Ron Bagden). And, finally, there�s pert young about-to-be-divorced Mildred Tynan (Domenica Cameron-Scorsese) who spends her days drinking up her meager funds. These ladies are doted and commented upon by the rest of a cast of 14 (not including an adorable dog) over a total of 12 scenes. I couldn�t help being touched by their plights and was ever so glad not to have been in their �privileged� positions.

    The sometimes cloying and sentimental proceedings are greatly enhanced because Dorothy Parker�s brittle and witty sensibility is much in evidence�especially in such of appropriate one-liners as: �Hatred�s filling but it isn�t nourishing.� or �Cremate the husbands and burn the wives along with them.� In the original Broadway production of this play, the producer imposed an unrealistic ending based on rejection of the prevailing milieu. Here that ending has been replaced by the more ambiguous denouement that Parker originally intended.

    This production, directed by the Peccadillo�s Artistic Director Dan Wackerman on a simple functional set by Chris Jones with great period costumes by Amy C. Bradshaw, has been around since last year when it played on Bank Street and later in a room at the Algonquin Hotel. With much the same cast all along, it has now been burnished to a bright sheen and should definitely be on your �must-see� list.

     

     

    What the critics had to say.....

    HONOR MOORE of the NEW YORK TIMES says �It's difficult to keep an audience laughing when wisecracks are all that hold you back from the abyss, but under Dan Wackerman's direction, the Peccadillo's production never falters.�
    MICHAEL SOMMERS of STAR-LEDGER says "Proves not to be anything near a masterpiece, but this revival affords students of literature a rare opportunity to see a forgotten work by Parker, who certainly is an American classic."
    External links to full reviews from newspapers

    New York Times