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Published: Wednesday, 1/24/2001

Rep's new play celebrates women

BY SALLY VALLONGO
BLADE SENIOR WRITER
Sandra Kay Stewart, left, Cindy Eberhardt, Jessica Joy Kemock, Dana J. Pilrose, Debra Ross Calabrese, and Wendy Bethune rehearse a song for A . . . My Name is Alice. Sandra Kay Stewart, left, Cindy Eberhardt, Jessica Joy Kemock, Dana J. Pilrose, Debra Ross Calabrese, and Wendy Bethune rehearse a song for A . . . My Name is Alice.
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How do you like your women? Do you lean toward the dewy-eyed ingenue, the sassy mama, the hard-eyed MBA, the wiser, “more mature” type, the trollop, the teacher, the tease?

Can't decide? Then the Toledo Repertoire Theatre's first 2001 production, A ... My Name is Alice, is the perfect 10 of a performance for you.

Spun out of lively song, engaging monologue and skit, a bit of soft shoe, and plenty of attitude, it offers a privileged view into the world of the female that is at once hilarious, full of good heart, and, best of all, oh, so real.

Created by and for women, performed and directed by women, supported by women - and a lot of men nicknamed Alice - the production still is most definitely not for women only.

In fact, it's a welcome opportunity to see the Rep at its best - giving its own clever spin to a sophisticated script and score. (And that was on opening night, so things can only get better through the run, which ends Feb. 11).

Give Rep management points for bringing this 1983 Off-Broadway brainchild of Joan Micklin Silver and Julianne Boyd to town for its first appearance. More than two dozen songs and skits in this musical review include work by Anne Meara, Lucy Simon, Amanda McBroom, and Steve Tesich.

Directed and staged by Jill Van Brussel, who, with partner Dirk “Alice” Van Brussel, provides snappy musical accompaniment on keyboards, synthesizers, and percussion, it's a showcase for some of the area's best and brightest performers.

Wendy D. Bethune, Debra Ross Calabrese, Cindy Eberhardt, Jessica Joy Kemock, Dana J. Pilrose, and Sandra Kay Stewart make beautiful music together in this witty, sassy production. Together and solo they offer up a celebration of all things female --the dreams and tears, the curves and wrinkles, the loves and losses that make life real.

Touching drama is balanced with bawdy high jinks, all in the name of exploring the experiences of a broad array of, well, broads. The effect is achieved as if a series of snapshots:

CLICK: Pilrose, as a fragile widow, and Kemock, as a trembly-lipped teen, agonize conjointly over approaching first dates while primping.

CLICK: Stewart as an aging black woman in a beauty salon - an achingly beautiful evocation.

CLICK: Eberhardt in a private moment recalling a mother long gone from her life.

CLICK: Calabrese hoofing joyfully through some of the most vulnerable moments of a woman's life.

CLICK: Bethune, in her acting debut, juggling accents and rattling off a string of French phrases as if poetry, convincing, funny.

CLICK: The company alternately shocked by, and enthusiastic about, a visit to a male strip joint.

Through lightning-fast prop and accessory changes and whiz-bang character shifts, this talented ensemble maintains a smooth, fast pace that never seems rushed. They flow, prance, dance, creep, and swagger on and off the sophisticated multitier stage set designed by James S. “Alice” Hill.

Alice at the Rep may be but a tiny size 2 production in terms of cast numbers, set, and costume, yet what it delivers is a plus-size package of wisdom, humor, and hope - the perfect antidote to our times or, at least, a great way to spend a weekend.

Show times are 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday through Feb. 11 at the 10th Street stage. Tickets are $16-$18 at the door.



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