Lanford Wilson's Women: Three One Acts
With Tanya Berezin, Conchata Ferrell, Stephanie Gordon, Trish Hawkins
and Judith Ivey; Directed by Marshall W. Mason
Lanford Wilson wrote some of the best roles for women in the last quarter of the 20th century. Like his mentor and friend, Tennessee Williams, the female characters in his work reach depths of complexity that make them memorable people we cherish.
In this collection of one-act plays written in the 70s and 80s, Lanford’s masterful portraits range from a resonant two-hander called The Great Nebula in Orion, through a youthful comedy of character in a tale of two roommates in Ludlow Fair, to the harrowing narrative of a short story writer reliving the traumatic events of her childhood in The Moonshot Tape.
The Great Nebula in Orion centers on the accidental reunion of two mature women who went to college together. Louise (Stephanie Gordon) is a successful New York fashion designer who lives in an apartment overlooking the Hayden Planetarium. She has run into Carrie (Tanya Berezin) in Bergdorf’s on a shopping trip from her home in Boston. Carey has married into the upper 2%, firmly entrenched in a life of social perquisites; but the site of the planetarium takes her back to an almost forgotten romance with a young dreamer who introduced her to the majestic mysteries of the constellations in the night sky. As these two catch up on the intervening years, secrets are revealed that shake the complacency of the present, with tumultuous passions buried in the past.
In a turn of comedic mastery, Ludlow Fair treats us to the tribulations of two mismatched young women sharing an apartment. Rachel (Trish Hawkins) has turned in her recent boyfriend, Joe, for making off with her savings, and now wonders if she’s done the right thing. Her contrasting roommate is cynical Agnes (Conchata Ferrell) who reminds Rachel of the dizzying history of young men the pretty girl has run through before falling prey to a hunk who’s ripped her off. While Rachel stews over her moral dilemma, Agnes is preparing for bed, fighting off a cold, and hoping for a threadbare romantic lunch with her boss’ skinny son. All Rachel wants is to be assured things will be better tomorrow, but Agnes shoots that down: it will be exactly the same tomorrow. The bittersweet contrast between these young ladies is heartbreakingly funny.
The Moonshot Tape lets us listen to Diane (Judith Ivey), a famous short-story writer revisiting her Midwestern hometown. She is being interviewed by a local girl writing for the high school paper. Diane is staying in a motel near a hospital, where her mother is waiting to transfer to a nursing home. The young journalist’s questions, although naïve, pierce Diane’s sophisticated style and with the aid of a little vodka, unleash memories that are at the foundations of her identity. She decides to answer the girl’s questions as honestly as possible. The result is a reliving of experiences that shock and devastate the listener, as we journey into a tormented past.
Introduction to The Great Nebula
Introduction to Ludlow Fair
Marshall W. Mason, Lanford Wilson, Trish Hawkins
Track 1. The Great Nebula in Orion
The American premiere of the play was in May 1972 at the Circle Theater Company with this cast and directed and designed by Marshall W. Mason.
Track 2.Ludlow Fair
The play premiered at the Caffe Cino in New York City in February 1965. It was directed and designed by Neil Flanagan and lighting design by Dennis Parichy. The cast starred Martha Galphin (Rachel) and Jennie Ventriss (Agnes).
Track 3. The Moonshot Tape
The play was first presented at the Humboldt State University in August 1990 with Roxanne Biggs and the New York premiere was at Circle Repertory Company in March 1994 with Judith Ivey winning an Obie Award for this performance. It was directed by Marshall W. Mason.
All directed by Marshall W. Mason
Recording Produced by Glen Roven and Jeffrey Sweet