by Gabriella de Brequet (She/They)
“This play is the definition of camp and director Sean Daniels took that and ran with it.”
Sometimes you just need a good laugh. I should say laughs, because Women in Jeopardy will hardly give you a moment to breathe; you’ll be laughing 90% of the show. I certainly was, and that’s saying a lot because I’m not usually a vocal audience member. I’m a director’s worst nightmare. I’m usually the last person you want to place by a critic to encourage laughter because I don’t give away laughs for free — they have to be earned. This ensemble earned every laugh that came their way. Three friends Mary (Aysan Celik), Jo (Julia Brothers), and Liz (Gail Rastorfer) go way back, so when Liz introduces her new boyfriend Jackson (Joel Van Liew), a dentist whose female dental hygienist just went missing, the red flags start flying high. Mary and Jo devise a scheme to stop this possible serial killer from taking Liz’s nineteen-year-old daughter Amanda (Ashley Shamoon) camping with him. Mary also recruits a little “help” from Amanda’s out of touch ex-boyfriend Trenner (Damian Garcia).
This play by Wendy Maclead is a modern farce filled with campy moments and predictable yet enjoyable punchlines. The ensemble doesn’t fall short. This play requires momentum for the punchlines to hit. Every cast member has to keep up with the others — and they do! Mary (Aysan Celik) really leads the play; she also resembles Amy Sedaris in type so much that I couldn’t get it out of my head the entire play. She’s an absolute hoot and you can’t help but fall in love with her quirkiness. Jo (Julia Brothers) is grounded and quick witted; her knowing grin was infectious. Liz (Gail Rastorfer) nails the “wine Mom” type who never wants to grow up and she commands your attention. Jackson (Joel Van Liew) served Christopher Llyod vibes. Did I mention he is also double-cast as the loveable goofy cop Sgt. Kirk Sponsüllar who the other characters remark “Looks so much like Jackson”? Trenner (Damian Garcia) and Amanda (Ashley Shamoon) bring a similar level of obliviousness to their characters that’s hilarious to watch. It takes a smart actor to play dumb! This play is the definition of camp and director Sean Daniels took that and ran with it. I will admit some moments were almost too much, particularly the scene transitions. I’m sure these moments served a purpose for set and prop changes, but sometimes they just felt like a fun time and didn’t always support the story, with the exception of the nod to the Say Anything boombox scene, which I deeply appreciated and did connect to the story.
The set by Michael B. Raiford is strikingly beautiful and detailed. I especially loved the campground scene. My one critique is that Mary’s house didn’t seem like the type of house that Mary would live in. Amanda and Trenner both remark that they wished Mary was their mother as children because of how kind and nurturing she is, but her house is ultra-modern and although its construction is gorgeous I imagined Mary’s house would feel more relaxed and homey. The lighting by Brian J. Lilienthan is almost an additional character and has quite the sense of humor. The costumes by Connie Furr are spot on and illustrate just how different these characters are from one another. There was great prop and costume comedy layered throughout the play and it enhanced the physical comedy.
If you want a fun night out — or in my case a fun afternoon new-mom outing — you aren’t going to want to miss this play. Bring a date or your best friend and laugh till your belly aches. Women in Jeopardy is just what we need in a pandemic: a hilarious escape.
Women in Jeopardy runs at ATC through February 5, 2022. For tickets, visit https://arizonatheatre.org/show/women-in-jeopardy/ or call 520-622-2823. ATC is requiring face masks for all patrons, as well as either proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test. For their full health and safety policies, visit https://arizonatheatre.org/health-safety/.
Disclosure: The Author Gabriella de Brequet would like to disclose that they went to college with Damian Garcia and has performed on stage with him in several productions.