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‘Women in Jeopardy’ provides big laughs, fine acting and timely psycho-social themes

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Jeopardy 006Wendy McLeod’s Women in Jeopardy opened last night in the Foulds Theatre at the Alliance for the Arts. Theatre Conspiracy’s pre-opening hype touted the play as a comedy that tells the story of three divorced women trying to cope with being single moms and the dating scene. Women in Jeopardy is so much more! This is a story for anyone Jeopardy 010who has ever tried to integrate a new love interest into an existing group dynamic, be it family, friends or even the work place.

The story unfolds near Salt Lake City, Utah, in the foothills of Little Cottonwood Canyon and within driving distance of Sunbird and Alta ski and summer resorts. That’s where three middle-aged women, Mary, Jo and Liz, enjoy a mutually-Jeopardy 013supportive friendship in the aftermath of their respective divorces. But the carefully-calibrated equilibrium of their relationship is now being jeopardized by Liz, who has found love in the arms of a short, dark and handsome dentist by the name of Jackson.

It’s pure joy to watch Stephanie Davis portray the sappy, lovesick Liz. The character is refreshingly complex for a comedy with so much unabashedly farcical Jeopardy 018content. Davis plays the role with a characteristic depth of understanding that heightens the entire production’s comedy quotient.

Liz is in love! She’s rediscovered passion, a state of being she no doubt feared was relegated to the fading mnemonic imprints of her nostalgic youth. And so, she hangs on Jackson’s every word. Finds even his most banal utterances funnier than any one-liner delivered by the likes of Jimmy Fallon, Jeopardy 019Jimmy Kimmel or Jon Stewart. And she’s oblivious to her boyfriend’s inappropriate jokes and painfully awkward comments. Thanks to Wendy McLeod’s brilliant writing, there’s a boatload of both.

It’s only normal for Liz to want and expect her besties’ validation and be offended when she doesn’t get it. But this is no Four Seasons. In quick succession, Liz divulges that a woman who’s gone missing is actually Jackson’s beautiful 22-year-old dental hygienist. Jackson was the last person to see her alive, and the police have not only questioned Jackson, they’ve seized his shoes to see if they match a Jeopardy 023cast of footprints they’ve taken from the scene. But to her friends’ dismay, none of these events has dampened Jackson’s ardor one iota. The fact that he continually refers to his hygienist in the past tense doesn’t help either. Then, as they look on in unrestrained horror, Liz’s tone-deaf dentist pulls out a new ski mask he’s purchased for a camping trip. But it’s not like anything that a die-hard powder hound would sport shredding the deep and Jeopardy 030steep runs off Cirque Traverse. No, it’s a brown hockey mask reminiscent of Hannibal Lecture’s headgear in Silence of the Lambs.

And then Liz drops the real bombshell on her increasingly befuddled friends. Jackson is taking Liz’s buxom 21-year-old daughter, Amanda, on an overnight camping trip to an undisclosed spot in Caramel Canyon. Jeopardy 034Not only is the girl not the sharpest tool in the shed, she’s vulnerable due to a recent break-up with her equally dim snowboarder boyfriend, Trenner.

Frantic, Mary and Jo first try to elicit help from the police, where they encounter an officer who eerily turns out to be Jackson’s doppelganger. When it turns out that he’s more interested in Mary than protecting Amanda, the women try to persuade Trenner to reconcile or at least intercede with Amanda, but Trenner comes away with the Doppelganger Scene 01impression that Mary is a cougar who’s warm for his form.

How does it all end? You’ll simply have to catch a performance to find out for yourself.

But there’s more to Women in Jeopardy than preposterous situations, snappy writing, bawdiness, and one-liners that will leave you gasping for breath. McLeod uses comedy and farce to create a safe environment in which to ponder such weighty Doppelganger Scene 06social themes as friendship in the modern era, the razor thin line that exists between loyalty, support and constructive criticism, and the risks and dangers to which mothers are willing to subject their children in an effort to find new love, romance and security in later life. One of the more poignant lines in the show is uttered by Mary, who acknowledges that now that Liz has a new love, their friendship will no longer be a priority with the Trenner and Mary in Ski Shop 07result that she and Jo will henceforth only receive her leftover time.

But an appreciation of McLeod’s machinations come after the fact – on the ride home or the following morning. During the show, you’ll be enthralled by the excellent acting you’ll find in Theatre Conspiracy’s production of Women in Jeopardy.

Davis Mary's Kitchen 03is her usual exceptional self. Liz Abbott and Karen Goldberg are equally wonderful as befuddled galpals determined to save their friend and her daughter from their self-imposed myopia.

As the dentist with more than gingivitis on his mind, Miguel Cintron takes creepy to a whole new level. He’s also quite droll as the cop unable to comment on his investigation of the dental hygienist’s disappearance. Karen Goldberg does a marvelous job of playing chopped liver as the cop indulges his fascination for Mary and only Mary.

Mary's Kitchen 09While Davis, Abbott, Goldberg and Miguel Cintron are unquestionably the glue that holds the show together, it’s Holly Hagan as Amanda and Chance Cintron (no relation to Miguel) as Trenner who provide the biggest, longest and loudest laughs.

Hagan is becoming quite the comedic ingénue. She was gold as the bartender in The Eight: The Reindeer Monologues and as a hotel desk clerk in a one-act play called Bird Flew that was written by Ben Mary's Kitchen 12Lamoureux for Lab Theater’s 24-Hour Playwriting Challenge in 2015. She was platinum as the mermaid in Deborah Zoe Laufler’s Sirens, which was produced in summer session by Lab Theater in 2015. But she’s upped her game yet again in Women in Jeopardy. One of the funniest scenes in the entire show takes place when she mistakenly walks into a pantry thinking it’s a door leading outside, and then, Mary's Kitchen 14scaring herself, storms across the stage screaming and throwing her arms around like she’s disturbed a hive of Africanized bees. She certainly deserved the bows and applause the sold-out crowd gave her on opening night.

Chance Cintron turns in a similarly stand-up performance as the Mary's Kitchen 16blissfully obtuse Trenner, who apparently spends alternate weekends frequenting cannabis social clubs in neighboring Nevada and Colorado. He only just graduated from Cypress Lake High and will begin his studies at FSW in the Fall. So, hopefully, local audiences will have the opportunity to see more of him going forward and watching the growth and development of his acting talent and skills.

Not only did Artistic Director do a fantastic job in casting and directing this show, he created yet another exceptional set for Women in Jeopardy. His on-stage kitchen shows every detail you’d expect to find in an upscale Utah home.

Mary's Kitchen 24Go for the content. Go for the laughs. Go for the acting. Or go just to get away from the news on your TV or Facebook feed. Whatever the reason that works for you, just GO see this play.

Running time is two hours with a 15-minute intermission that will give you a chance to see the Elevation art exhibition on display in the main gallery of the Alliance for the Arts.

August 12, 2017.

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