ROBIN’S SHOW REVIEW: The Best of Everything
Before Sex and the City or Mad Men, there was Rona Jaffe’s scandalous 1958 bestseller THE BEST OF EVERYTHING. Now this controversial novel, which was the basis for the hit 1959 movie starring Joan Crawford, has been brought to the stage courtesy of the new theater company 95 WordsPerMinute. It is adapted and directed by Julie Kramer, and developed with actor and writer Amy Wilson.
Set in the pre-women’s liberation era, THE BEST OF EVERYTHING tells the story of five young and impressionable secretaries. New to the big city, they spend their days at Fabian Publishing, while yearning for exciting nights on the town, thrilling careers, and men who ultimately put a ring on their finger.
This theatrical adaptation of THE BEST OF EVERYTHING is produced with the permission of The Rona Jaffe Foundation. “Back then, people didn’t talk about not being a virgin. They didn’t talk about going out with married men. They didn’t talk about abortion. They didn’t talk about sexual harassment, which had no name in those days,” explained Jaffe in an interview about her novel. “I thought if I could help one young woman sitting in her tiny apartment thinking she was all alone and a bad girl, then the book would be worthwhile.”
I’m a longtime fan of Rona Jaffe. When I first heard about this play being produced, it took me back to my single days working fulltime in NYC….reading Jaffe novels. I didn’t see the movie, so I can’t compare, but the cast in this show is right on the money, and this is an effective showcase for them. Lead by the talented and appealing Sarah Wilson as Caroline, she not only looks the part of the pretty ingenue, but is fully convincing as a go-getter who isn’t afraid to stand up for all that she has worked hard to achieve.
Molly Lloyd is delicious as Mary Agnes, the office yenta who can’t contain herself, and Alicia Sable as cupie doll April has some great lines and delivery. Tom O’Keefe in multiple roles inclulding Mike, Mr. Shalimar, David and Ronnie, proves a versatile actor. Hayley Treider as the sexy, yet troubled actress delivers as a chanteuse with depth, and Amy Wilson as Miss Farrow presents a stiff upper lip and uptight disposition, with an emotional undertone. Jordan Geiger plays Eddie, Caroline’s ex, and Sas Goldberg is Brenda, yet another office mate.
Though the play lacks in dramatic tension and has a “retro soap opera” feel, it has plenty of both amusing and heartfelt banter and characters who hold our attention. It also has inspired and inventive moments, including a dream sequence, dancing cardboard stiffs and a clever opening….. Caroline holding a model size ship…..symbolic of the cruise where she lost the love of her life to another….and the boat ultimately gets stashed away in a file cabinet, as she dives full speed ahead with her career, despite a broken heart.
The 90 minute play was developed in readings at The Directors Company and workshopped as part of in New Georges Spring Development series. The production is a part of HEREstay, HERE’s curated rental program, which provides artists with subsidized space and equipment as well as technical support.
95 WordsPerMinute is director/writer Julie Kramer and actor/writer Amy Wilson, longtime collaborators, who think feminism and comedy go perfectly together. They make theater about fast-talking women with smart mouths to seize the narrative and question the status quo.
Julie Kramer is a critically-acclaimed director, known for her work developing new plays by women. Her directing credits include Amy Wilson’s Mother Load (Off-Broadway and national tour), Hillary: A Modern Greek Tragedy with a (Somewhat) Happy Ending at New Georges, Baby Love at 45 Bleecker, None of the Above at The Lion on Theatre Row, and Dawn Powell’s You Should Have Brought Your Mink at 78th Street Theater Lab. She was a Young Director in Residence at Ensemble Studio Theatre and is a member of the Society of Directors and Choreographers.
Amy Wilson has appeared on Broadway in the Tony Award-winning play The Last Night of Ballyhoo, and in dozens of other plays off- and off-off-Broadway. On TV, she was a series regular on Norm (ABC) with Norm MacDonald and Daddio (NBC) with Michael Chiklis. She is the author of the memoir When Did I Get Like This? (William Morrow). Amy’s writing has also appeared in Redbook, Parenting, and The Huffington Post, among many others. Amy served as a writer on the NBC sketch comedy show Live on Tape and has penned several plays, including the critically acclaimed Mother Load.
Rona Jaffe (1931-2005) was the author of sixteen books including the bestselling internationally acclaimed novels The Best of Everything, The Road Taken, The Cousins, Family Secrets, Mr. Right is Dead, Mazes and Monsters, The Last Chance, and Five Women, as well as the classic bestsellers Class Reunion and The Room-Mating Season. She founded The Rona Jaffe Foundation, which presents annual awards to promising women writers of literary fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. It is the only national literary awards program of its kind dedicated to supporting women writers exclusively. Ms. Jaffe was a lifelong New Yorker.
THE BEST OF EVERYTHING runs September 29-October 21 – Tuesday – Saturday at 8:30pm. HERE Arts Center is located at 145 Avenue of Americas at Dominick Street, one block south of Spring Street (accessible from the C,E trains at Spring Street). Tickets are $18, available at 212-352-3101. Visit Best of Everything.