BWW Review: THE MISTRESS CYCLE at Creative Cauldron
Creative Cauldron in Falls Church, VA is dedicating their season to women and their unique stories. The season's current nod to its dedication is The Mistress Cycle. Appropriately, two women wrote the book and music: Beth Blatt and Jenny Giering. At its core, The Mistress Cycle is a show by women for women.
Lulu White, Diane de Poitiers, Anaïs Nin, Tess, and Ching are our mistresses. (Tess and Ching are both composite characters while the other three women are taken from history.) The show touches on each woman's story while attempting to thread together a greater narrative and commentary on women and their roles in sexual relationships. (Think Sondheim's "Assassins" but with famous mistresses.)
As the show begins, the women chant "Jezebel, Siren, Vixen, Enchantress...", but each is ultimately designated a mistress-a word for which they emphatically state there is no male equivalent.
It's always special to see a show with a small cast in a small theatre. The setting is appropriately intimate, and you are able to see and experience nuances that would be missed in a proscenium theatre.
Each actress is effectively emotive during both solos and ensemble numbers; their focus as a group is strong, which helps the audience stay connected to each woman's individual story. While there are only five people in this show, there are several bit roles. For example, Lulu White tells the story of her journey from New Orleans to California, the woman playing Ching plays the porter on the train. The staging is both efficient and well executed by some pretty strong actresses.
While they all have lovely voices, it is evident that some of these singers are more experienced than others. In moments when the simple keyboard accompaniment falters, some of the singers are led astray while others are able to forge ahead undeterred. This is particularly evident in the group numbers, which feel a little neglected.
Props to the shows creators, Blatt and Giering for producing a musical that will inspire audiences to discuss feminism and its portrayal on the stage. However, it's unclear why they chose to mix factual and fictional characters when there are scads of famous mistresses throughout history. The show's concept is intriguing, but doesn't quite deliver. The historic characters are written with wonderful research and detail-particularly Diane de Poitiers-but, some of the songs are awkwardly placed and do little to drive the story forward.
The Mistress Cycle is a fun and gusty choice for Creative Cauldron's season. It sheds light on a rarely discussed issue-particularly within the medium of the musical.
Creative Cauldron's The Mistress Cycle is directed by Matt Conner with musical direction by Piero Bonamico. Both scenic and costume design are by Margie Jervis, and Lynn Joslin is Lighting Designer.
The production runs through October 29, 2017; Tickets can be purchased via the Creative Cauldron website or by calling 703-436-9948.
Run time is approximately 90 minutes sans intermission.
Photography by Keith Waters
Writer's Note: Abby Middleton is the reviewer's first cousin. (Yes. Their family is fairly single-minded in its interests.)