BWW Review: Arizona Women's Theater Company Presents LITTLE WARS

BWW Review: Arizona Women's Theater Company Presents LITTLE WARS

Arranging fictional encounters between iconic heroes is, conceptually, a clever formula for potentially stimulating theatre. In practice, it has worked a number of times, rather successfully, in such instances as Steve Martin's Picasso at the Lapin Agile, Mark St. Germain's Freud's Last Session, Stephen Sondheim's Assassins, and David Davalos's Wittenberg. Alas, the same cannot be said of Steven Carl McCasland's LITTLE WARS (running through July 8th at the Mesa Encore Theatre (MET) Black Box in Mesa, AZ), an ambitious but superficial, plodding and unfulfilled stab at an imagined soiree of literary sisters (Agatha Christie, Lillian Hellman, and Dorothy Parker) in the French Alpine country home of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. The enigmatic presence of an unexpected guest adds an element of humanism and conscience to what is otherwise a disconnected series of one-uppers.

The playwright has conceived a layer cake of themes, none of which receives enough time or treatment to provide savory satisfaction. At once, it aims to be a window into the pain of women stigmatized for their lesbianism. At another moment, it is a story of conscience and courage in the face of anti-Semitism, sexual brutality, and the imminent fall of France in 1940 to the Nazis. In yet other moments, it is the conveyance for the guests' personal confessions and the embattled relationship between Stein and her bête noire, Lillian Hellman. So much here upon which to capitalize, but the themes collapse under their own weight.

Arizona Women's Theater Company's current production doesn't do much to save the play from its flaws. The potential is there, but, with pacing that is arduous and performances that provide momentary flashes of energy, LITTLE WARS, directed by Joy Bingham Strimple, falls short.

Photo credit to Laura Durant

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