New Ground Show Explores the Lighter Side of Women’s Troubles: "Female Problems: A Musical" Print
Theatre - Reviews
Written by Jill Walsh   
Tuesday, 27 January 2004 18:00
Female problems. According to this musical by Nicole Hollander and Cheri Coons, we (as in women) have lots of them. Whether it’s ridding our closets of shoes, trying new hairstyles every month, loving our insufficient-but-tolerable husbands, or fretting over the weight gain from (gasp!) a piece of German chocolate cake, we have lots of important issues on our minds that require a lifetime of worry, tummy-tucks, and doctor visits.

Right. I wish all I had to think about was the possibility of a Whitey’s chipper sandwich, enhancing my wardrobe, and cuddling with my husband. But in reality, women (and people in general) have jobs, school, pets, children, financial woes, and lives to remember.

Similar to the monologue/musical styles of other female-focused shows such as A … My Name Is Alice and The Vagina Monologues, Female Problems: A Musical (opening at New Ground Theatre on Thursday) has a split focus. A few of the vignettes deal with feminine issues such as menopause, dieting, and marriage, but much of the show takes a lighthearted, almost absurd twist on popular culture, fairy tales, and female conventions. While one woman croons over her bug-eyed husband in the episode “The Fly,” inspired by the horror movie, another lady confronts her unusual past as an elf in “One Woman’s Story.” Cinderella complains that she’d rather wear Birkenstocks than glass slippers, and Snow White devours an entire carb-filled meal before the apple eventually knocks her out.

These random but funny segments made me wonder: Why? I was amused but also confused at the overall message (if any) Hollander and Coons were trying to convey. The playwrights skirted around the most serious issues – not many mentions of cancer, death, pregnancy, or divorce – and instead played up the trivialities of life using popular culture as symbols.

But enough analyzing. Female Problems is a fun show, with memorable lines such as “Why would I shave my legs? That’s what slacks are for!” The song “Marriage for Three” considers the amusing possibility of a two-woman, one-man marriage, in which shared housecleaning and some bedroom adventures convince the three to attempt this odd union. “The Doctor Is Delayed” explores the familiar experience of waiting hours in a gynecologist’s office while the physician attends to other business. The 12 songs are intermixed with a handful of monologues and scenes, with six actors each having key roles.

The New Ground performers look comfortable flitting from character to character and embodying each role. Susan McPeters, who plays both an elf and the fly-lover among other parts, had an engaging, addictive smile, which contributed to her success, especially during her solos. Lora Adams fretted as the absolutely cute and nerdy “Woman Who Worries About Everything,” crooned in the “Post-Feminist Torch Song,” and “weawy” (really) had a wonderful accent in “Menopause Express.”

The only parts I didn’t find necessary were the Bad Thoughts. Tristan Layne Tapscott and Alicia Jackson did what they could with the small song-and-dance backup roles, but most of the time, the hovering or boogying “thoughts” just seemed to be in the way of the action.

I liked the musical, and as usual New Ground has gathered some talented locals, but in spite of its lighthearted and sweet nature, Female Problems: A Musical left me with a few nagging questions. Is food really the only thing that makes women happy? That’s what Coons and Hollander suggest in their constant mentions of steak, meatloaf, ice cream, and pasta, especially considering that the thought of food is about the only way the “Woman Who Worries About Everything” can calm down.

And there are other pressing questions. What color should I dye my hair this month? Did I leave the oven on? Did I turn the lights off? Does this article make me look fat?

Female Problems: A Musical will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. at Rivermont Collegiate in Bettendorf. The show runs through February 8. For tickets or more information, call 326-7529.