When I was in New York in July I decided not to go see Tyne Daly in Masterclass and pretty much instantly regretted it, as if I had I could have seen both Cagney and Lacey on stage this year. Instead I had to settle for just Cagney, as Sharon Gless is at Riverside Studios to lead the cast of A Round-Heeled Woman (Victorian slang for a slut.) Gless plays Jane Juska in an adaptation of her memoir, following her adventures after putting a personal ad in, of all places, the New York Review of Books: "Before I turn 67 - next March - I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me." Cue a variety of encounters with a number of men with various hangups and peculiarites, and the retired English teacher who hadn't had sex since her divorce 30 years earlier is out of her depth. And for the second night in a row, a play where a woman over 50 gets to do The Sex with a hot younger guy (this time Michael Thomson.)
Gless is as warm and funny as you'd hope and the show's certainly entertaining but it does feel as if adaptor/director Jane Prowse hasn't quite figured out the tone of it. The action is occasionally interspersed with Juska's imaginary conversations with the heroine of Trollope's Miss Mackenzie (Beth Cordingly,) an idea that works better sometimes than others, while a dream sequence feels like a spoof. I also couldn't figure out what was bothering me about Ian Fisher's set and it's only just struck me now: It's too pristine; apart from the fact that there's a bed on stage it feels like it should be the set for a daytime talk show, possibly involving Gloria Hunniford. Gless and the rest of the cast seem to be having a great time and the audience did too (especially the woman who seemed intent on starting a round of applause for particular lines she liked, despite the rest of the audience's refusal to join in) and the play's theme of an older woman empowering herself both sexually and personally (her adventures give her the confidence to contact her estranged son, also played by Thomson) is appealing but as theatre it doesn't entirely work.
A Round-Heeled Woman by Jane Juska, adapted by Jane Prowse is booking until the 20th of November at Riverside Studio 2.