Review: 'Lady Parts' at Phoenix Stage Company

Nancy Sasso Janis

  • Connecticut Critic
  • Connecticut Critics Circle

Oakville, CT - So the unfortunately named ‘Lady Parts’ that is running at the Phoenix Stage Company at Clockwork could probably use a better title. Its description as “Seven Short Gynocomical Plays” doesn’t really help. However, the short plays by Brett Hursey do share a common thread of a female focus and are quite funny individually; together they make for a fun evening of laughter with some great comic performances by several Phoenix favorites, both male and female.

Phoenix managing director Ed Bassett directs the seven one acts that run in various configurations on weekends through Saturday, Oct. 22. In case you were wondering, ‘Lady Parts’ replaces ‘The Mystery of Irma Vep’ which the PSC had difficulty casting.

This series of unserious short plays includes ‘The Stand-In,’ ‘Leap Year,’ ‘Pumps,’ ‘Kung-Foolery,’ ‘Wingnuts,’ ‘Tough Cookies, and ‘Scrambled.’ Featured in the talented cast are Tori Richnavsky, Deb Goodman, Elizabeth Fricke, Lori Poulin, Chris Evans, Rob Richnavsky, Chuck Stango, Michael Calabrese and Aric Martin. The Friday evening that I attended, I got to see every play except ‘Pumps’ and every actor in the cast in various combinations. The remaining performances will include six of the seven plays performed with an intermission.  

A few of the plays had been performed before on the Phoenix stage in Naugatuck, so it was fun to see again the hysterical ‘Kung-Foolery’ with Mr. and Mrs. Richnavsky as the young couple Barry and Karly (with Lori Poulin as her mother Lois.) He is a riot as a Ninja wannabe and her reaction shots are priceless, especially when Ms. Poulin arrives on the stage. I also remembered the silly ‘Stand In’ with Mr. Calabrese as an over-the-top director conducting a bizarre audition for Mandy (Ms. Goodman) with a sock puppet (well puppeteered by a deadpan Mr. Martin.) 

In fact, Ms. Goodman did three quick changes to appear in the first three pieces and she did well with her audition, as one of the sisters in ‘Leap Year’ and as the scrambled newlywed in ‘Scrambled.’ Ms. Fricke played the youngest sister in ‘Leap Year’ and Ms. Poulin rounded out the trio of nervous sisters awaiting a call from their mother. 

I loved seeing the new proud father Mr. Evans appear in just one of the plays, as the other half of the couple in ‘Scrambled.’ It was also a treat to see Mr. Stango in two of the short plays, as an airline passenger in ‘Wingnuts’ and a guy on a date in ‘Tough Cookies.’ PSC Production Manager Ms. Poulin played the flight attendant with baggage in the former and a resourceful waitress in the latter. Ms. Fricke was the other half of the dating couple in ‘Tough (Fortune) Cookies’ as well as another passenger on the airplane with Mr. Stango. 

The director designed the multiple sets and stage manager Debbie Cryan and Ms. Poulin worked their magic on the props. The playwright, a professor of English at Longwood University in Virginia, is flying up to attend one of next weekend’s performances. On the Longwood University website Mr. Hursey described ‘Lady Parts’ when it premiered Off-off Broadway “as seven different shows about seven different women. It’s about how women have to negotiate a world that is full of difficulties uniquely set up for their gender. Sometimes those difficulties are men, and sometimes those difficulties are actually other women.” More than half of Hursey’s plays are written from a female perspective.