Epiphanies

Two staged stories explore women's role in early 20th-century society

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Through Feb. 13

Tickets are $25-28, pay-what-you-can on Wednesdays

437-6775

www.zspac e.org

Magic Theatre, Fort Mason, Building D, Marina & Buchanan, S.F.

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Word for Word's staging of two short stories, "The Necklace" ("La Parure") by the French writer Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893) and "A Jury of Her Peers" by the American author Susan Glaspell (1882-1948), explores the role of and expectations placed upon women in early 20th-century society. "The Necklace" tells the story of a bored and unhappy clerk's wife, Mathilde Loisel (Delia MacDougall), whose dreams of wealth and excitement are shattered when she borrows a necklace from a rich friend for a ball and promptly loses it. In "A Jury of Her Peers," a housewife, Minnie Wright (MacDougall again), is taken into custody following the murder of her husband. While the town sheriff (Brian Keith Russell) and his partners (Howard Swain, Andrew Hurteau) look for incriminating evidence in the Wright home, the sheriff's wife, Mrs. Peters (Stephanie Hunt), and a townswoman, Mrs. Hale (Patricia Silver), wait for their husbands in Mrs. Wright's kitchen, where they discover crucial evidence about the crime on their own. Performed against Mikiko Uesugi's versatile set, consisting of three simple panels, each with a door, the stories reveal startling contrasts and parallels. Maupassant's wry, detached tone is as much a critique of the petit bourgeois aspirations of Mme. Loisel as of the class system that surrounds her. Glaspell's tale, with its exposé of society's sexist values, is a subtle study of female solidarity. The decision to play "The Necklace" purely for laughs provides effective contrast to the darkness of "Jury," but the giggles come at the expense of the intense cruelty of Maupassant's fable. Similarly, in a story that revolves around the voicelessness of women, Word for Word's systematic articulation of every single word from the source material, down to the "he saids" and "she saids," rather spoils the cavernous, momentous silences crucial to Glaspell's tale. Nevertheless, David Dower's imaginative direction -- together with seamless performances from the acting ensemble -- brings both stories vividly to life.

 
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