The 10-year-old Women’s Theatre Project has been quietly regrouping since losing its Fort Lauderdale home last February. But the gals have now bounced back, moving into bigger quarters no less, with a production of Barbara Pease Weber’s Delval Divas at the Willow Theatre in Boca Raton’s Sugar Sand Park.
Though the script is less than divine, Delval Divas does sport juicy comedic roles for six strong actresses. Director Genie Croft goes six for six in casting this one, and honestly, Lela Elam, Jacqueline Laggy, Sally Bondi, Jessica K. Peterson, Karen Stephens and Lisa Kerstin Brown could probably make the phone book sound funny. That’s good, because Delval Divas can use all the topspin and finesse these performers supply.
Set in a cushy Delaware correctional facility in 2003, the comedy is about four white-collar criminals, the helpful guard who is literally on their payroll and a woman accused of poisoning her ex-hubby’s new wife.
The inmates are doing time for things like computer hacking, insider trading and Medicare fraud, but the gals haven’t lost their fortunes, their Type A personalities or their lust for the good life. Lounging in spacious cells they’ve transformed into luxury suites (the set is by Sean McClelland), they place online orders for gourmet meal deliveries, have daily cocktail hours and get regular massages, hair styling sessions and mani-pedis. Their vacation from the stresses of their pre-slammer lives isn’t something they’re eager to give up.
Yet, as it always does, change intervenes. The gals learn the prison is going to be closed (some financial shenanigans by the warden are to blame), and that they’re all being sent to – horrors! – a real prison. And the arrival of that accused murderess means they’re sharing their space with someone who might actually be dangerous.
The play is sitcom silly, with most key plot developments happening offstage. Yet watching these actresses do their thing is entertaining enough that you can almost gloss over the scripts absurdities and deficiencies.
As Lucille, the cooperative guard who’s in grad school courtesy of the inmates, Elam is empathetic and funny, particularly when she dances her way through deliveries to the iron-bar suites. As hacker Beth, Laggy is an amusingly reluctant parolee. Peterson brings command to insider trader Stella, Stephens analytical cool to doctor Linda, Bondi warmth to inmate-lawyer Rosemary. As Sharon, the woman accused of murder, Braun bawls until her mascara runs, but she and the character improve once the waterworks stop.
Nice as it is to see the Women’s Theatre Project up and running again in a larger space, here’s hoping that the company’s play choices will get better. These talented actresses and the company’s loyal audiences deserve more.