Playwright Jaclyn Backhaus is striving to be witty and intellectual, as well as make feminist points about the need to uplift women, but unfortunately the result that spans centuries veers between clever and messy. There are moments that are funny but overall the production begins to drag even though it is only 80 minutes without an intermission. The world premiere of the work is being presented by Playwrights Horizons, with direction by Margot Bordelon.
Two sections are best. The first is set in the Chateau de Chenonceaux, Loire Valley, France, during the 1500s. We look into the rivalry between King Henry II’s wife and his mistress, and the combat that they wage, including after the king has died of battle wounds until they figure out that they have more in common than they thought. The spirited acting is a boon.
The second section is set in 1961 in Ketchum, Idaho, after writer Ernest Hemingway has committed suicide, and involves argumentative, bitchy discussions between key women in his life—Martha Gellhorn, Hadley Richardson and Mary Welsh. Some of the writing is entertainingly sharp.
But things go downhill from there in the third part set in India in the early 1920s, with stabs at dealing with villainous British rule interlaced with relations between the Maharajah and his women. The most muddled is the final excursion, set in the present in Oxbridge University, in which the author packs an effort to portray changes in the outlook of women, past and present, undercut by a silly ploy involving witchcraft.
Best about the production is the cast, consisting of four versatile actors who shift into various roles with elan- Purva Bedi, Adina Verson, Aadya Bedi and Sathya Shridharan. At the Peter Jay Sharp Theater at Playwrights Horizons, 416 West 42nd Street. Reviewed September 17, 2019.