Saturday, November 10, 2012

Women's Theatre Project: Delval Divas (4 reviews)

The Women's Theatre Project opened their production of Barbara Pease Weber's Delval Divas at their new home in the Willow Thatre on November 2, 2012.
A comedy about four educated, successful, professional women who share something in common: The same address. They reside at the Delaware Valley Federal Correctional Facility, a low-level security prison for white and "pink" collar criminals. With the Warden in one pocket and their cell block guard in another, the "Divas" continue to indulge their lavish and luxurious lifestyles until one of them is prematurely released and a murderess moves into her place.
Genie Croft directed a cast that featured Sally Bondi, Lisa Braun, Lela Elam, Jacqueline Laggy, Jessica Peterson and Karen Stephens.

Mary Damiano reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
...Delval Divas, a comedy by Barbara Pease Weber... is getting a fun and frothy treatment by The Women’s Theatre Project (TWTP).
Genie Croft’s direction keeps the mood light and breezy. The ensemble is entertaining, delivering the script’s one-liners with aplomb. Braun has the opportunity to give the most varied performance, as her character is the one who walks into this surreal situation and gets to evolve with it. Her reactions to the unusual prison lifestyle are wonderful.
The company formerly operated out of a tiny space in downtown Fort Lauderdale. While the mission is still producing plays by women, featuring women and for women, TWTP is now able to spread their wings with an impressive, detailed scenic design by Sean McClelland, the kind of set that would not have been possible in their former storefront venue.
Delval Divas is a laugh-out-loud funny show. There’s no big message, no deeper meaning, just two hours of fun.
Michelle Solomon wrote for miamiartzine:
The Women's Theatre Project is breaking in its new home in Boca Raton at the Willow Theatre in Sugar Sand Park with a well-acted, smartly directed comedy about white-collar female jailbirds that put the capital D in the word divas. The play is the perfect choice for The Women's Theatre Project as it showcases an all-female cast. This ensemble is a delight to watch as they work together to slowly peel back layers of their characters, each revealing the schemes that put them behind bars in the first place.
The seasoned actresses bite into their roles with gusto. Peterson takes control as den mother and ringleader, Stella, exhibiting the bravado of a woman who has broken through the glass ceiling. Stephens as the doctor with a snoring problem who dispenses advice on hormone replacement therapy as well as other medical tidbits, embodies her character, knowing just when to play the doc low key, or amp her up a bit. Bondi as the attorney, who uses her time at Delval to overindulge in good food and fine wine, plays Rosemary with a devil-may-care attitude that provides the necessary middle man for the two bookends. Bondi has a knack for a natural ease on stage, and it shows through in this role. Costume designer Linda Shorrock had the most fun, it appears, with Bondi’s costuming – where did Shorrock find those kaftans?
Stealing a giant moment midway into the play is Elam as Lucille. Wearing headphones while she places her daily wares for the demanding ladies – roses and other assorted five-star hotel amenities, Elam does a dynamite pantomime of We Are Family – it is a choreographed, comedic tour de force.
Laggy has a small part as Beth since she’s ushered out early in the play and returns near the end, but the actress makes each moment count when she’s on stage.
Genie Croft’s understanding of how to play comedy without overdoing it is exactly the direction Delval Divas needs. She keeps everything real and allows the author’s intentions to develop on their own. She also knows how to work with an ensemble, which makes this piece finely tuned.
The move to the Willow Theatre triples the seats that The Women’s Theatre Project needs to fill. They previously performed in an intimate 50-seat space in Fort Lauderdale, and they are now in a 155-seat facility. It’s a tall order, but well worth the effort as this is a wonderful space for them to do their work.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Though the script is less than divine, Delval Divas does sport juicy comedic roles for six strong actresses. Director Genie Croft goes six for six in casting this one, and honestly, Lela Elam, Jacqueline Laggy, Sally Bondi, Jessica K. Peterson, Karen Stephens and Lisa Kerstin Brown could probably make the phone book sound funny.
The play is sitcom silly, with most key plot developments happening offstage. Yet watching these actresses do their thing is entertaining enough that you can almost gloss over the scripts absurdities and deficiencies.
As Lucille, the cooperative guard who’s in grad school courtesy of the inmates, Elam is empathetic and funny, particularly when she dances her way through deliveries to the iron-bar suites. As hacker Beth, Laggy is an amusingly reluctant parolee. Peterson brings command to insider trader Stella, Stephens analytical cool to doctor Linda, Bondi warmth to inmate-lawyer Rosemary. As Sharon, the woman accused of murder, Braun bawls until her mascara runs, but she and the character improve once the waterworks stop.
 Hap Erstein committed a meta-review for Palm Beach Artspaper (you may need to scroll down):
Moving north to Boca Raton is the 10-year-old Women’s Theatre Project, previously located in Broward County, producing plays written by women, usually with all-female casts. That limiting mission is responsible in part for the company’s uneven track record, but few of its scripts have been as flimsy as its current show, Delval Divas.
The outcome is never in doubt; it just doesn’t arrive soon enough. The cast emerges relatively blameless, as does director Genie Croft ― the company’s artistic head ― unless she happened to have selected this dud. The Women’s Theatre Project could become a valuable part of Palm Beach County’s theatrical landscape, but it has to offer better material than Delval Divas.
The Women's Theatre Project production of Delval Divas plays at the Willow Theater through November 18, 2012.

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