With Jerusalemreceiving six Tony Award nominations, it seems only fair the Americans have a crack of the whip this side of the Atlantic. Having premiered in Miami, A Round-Heeled Woman, adapted from Jane Juska's book by Jane Prowse (who also directs), now finds itself in Hammersmith.
The story centres around 66 year-old Juska (Sharon Gless), a woman whose sex life has been so parched of late she decides to take out a rather risque advertisement in the New York Book Review. “I want to have as much sex as possible before my 67th birthday, with a nice man who preferably likes Trollope” about sums it up.
It should come as no surprise that she encounters her fair share of weirdos (which she oddly finds baffling). In reality though, what she is really parched of is her estranged son Andy (Michael Thomson). Freud say what you will.
The first problem with Prowse's production is the stage. Designed like a TV set it is far too big for the two and three hander vignettes the play is comprised of. The result is a lack of connectivity and spark between the actors. Also, its desire to be 'real' - a wine rack with just the right amount of missing bottles and the sumptuous king sized bed - comes up desperately short when Andy has the impossible task of swinging an axe in an imagined forest, when he’s clearly thwacking at a white picket fence.
The play itself is reminiscent of American TV comedies, replete with a live studio audience, who watch a series of one dimensional characters popping in, getting a few laughs and popping out again without creating any real impact. The use of multi role too is confusing because many of the characters are too similar.
Perhaps the most baffling character is that of Miss Mackenzie, who pops in from a different century, and out of a Trollope novel, to chew the cud and exchange views on marriage and love with Jane. Sadly this comic atmosphere renders the more tender moments of the play unbelievable, particularly Jane’s flashbacks about her son, which encourage some sort of emotional response which the play itself cannot sustain.
A Round-Heeled Woman is redeemed in parts by Gless, who works the audience well, and there are some outstanding one liners, the highlight being Sydney’s charming request to Jane, “Put your tits on the table.”