Review: Don’t miss Frankie’s make-out session in “Female of the Species”

Empathy for the effects from bad mothering plus a shoulder massage is what Debra Rich Gettleman gets from Tracy Cahill (playing “Tess” and “Molly” respectively) in The Phoenix Theatre’s production of “Female of the Species”, directed by Eric Lewis.

Sell Out Alert!

The Phoenix Theater

“Female of the Species”

by Joanna Murray-Smith

Director: Eric Lewis

They’re making out at The Phoenix Theatre and – believe us – you will not want to miss it!

Back stabbing, betrayal, gun play, partner-switcharoos, and if you’re watching the background scenes, quite a bit of making out on the sofa takes place in The Phoenix Theatre’s (TPT) currently running production, Female of the Species which plays through April 30.

With Eric Lewis directing an all-star cast of professional level talent, this on-the-rise troupe takes on one of the funniest, darkest satires in a manner that even Gloria Steinem would approve of.

Melanie Calderwood takes the lead role as author Margot Mason, with an opening salvo of F-bombs delivered in a scathing phone conversation with her literary agent. And thusly, Joanne Murray-Smith’s take on the 2000 home invasion of literary giant Germaine Greer takes shape for the sake of farcical satire and dark comedy.

In Female of the Species, Mason, the arch-typical ego-driven academic, faces the affects of a legacy derived from sensationalizing the 1970s women’s liberation movement as one character after another enters the stage and tells her off – not one of them missing the opportunity to wield “the gun” in her face. (Be aware that shots are fired during this production.)

The brilliance of this production is, in great part, created by the stark personality differences of each character – perfected by the expert direction of Lewis who directs most of the troupe’s productions.

Tracy Cahill (as “Molly”) begins the parade of characters compelled to tell off the author. Cahill’s character repetitively deadpans her identity with something like, “I’m the home invader”; throughout the play, which becomes farcically funnier in its repetitiveness as one character after another enters the mix and introduces themself to a growing crowd of people who hold a grudge against the self-centered author.

Molly, a fan whose life was ruined by Mason’s constant paradigm shift on women’s issues, is followed on stage by Mason’s daughter “Tess Thornton” conceived during a wild party attended by Joni Mitchell and played gorgeously by Debra Rich Gettleman. Next is “Bryan Thornton” who plays Mason’s emasculated, lot wattage and boringly safe son-in-law (husband to Tess).

David Bailey, fresh off his Seattle Fringe Fest gig with TPT, plays Bryan. And we’ve got to admit, no one gets more laughs from wearing a femininely styled apron than Bailey. When he enters from the off-stage kitchen balancing a tray of the soup du jour (daintily making sure each raging character is properly served) the guffaws spill.

Juxtapositioned against “Bryan’s” emasculation derived from his familial relationship to Mason is a man’s man, “Frank” the leather-jacket-wearing cab driver. No strong-jawed tall, dark and handsome could be better for this part than Nicholas Horiatis.

Finally late to the shoot out – but equally eager to kill Margot Mason – is literary agent “Theo” played by veteran actor Dennis Moore. Upon learning that his meal ticket author has only written 232 words of a novel that is due within days, he invites someone – anyone – to go ahead and shoot the woman whose past success has given him a lifestyle to which he has become accustom.

One would hardly put up with what becomes a hilarious roast of their character – if they were not handcuffed to their own desk – as Mason (Melanie Calderwood) is. Let it be said that nothing stops Calderwood from getting a laugh, including chains and handcuffs.

Laughter filled the theatre every time she tugged at her handcuffs and shuffled her rolly-chair back and forth across the boards in short little faux steps. Melanie Calderwood would be so funny at doing a comedic Houdini.

Eric Lewis, director of The Phoenix Theatre’s “Female of the Species” which runs through April 30.

Early on during rehearsals, the community was invited by Lewis to sit in and ask questions of the director and actors. Artfully Edmonds accepted the invitation and it was stunning to see how much the scenes had developed, the relationships between the actors bond, and the cross-overs funnier on opening night. Respect goes out from this reviewer to the director.

Artfully Edmonds strongly recommends keeping an eye on Debra Rich Gettleman throughout Female of the Species – regardless of who has the gun. When she finally meets “her man” and the sparks fly, you won’t want to miss out on what happens on the sofa even though “center stage” is at the mini-bar!

The Phoenix Theatre has a great easy-off-the-freeway location from I-5 at Exit 178 – follow the signs directing to southbound N. 205th St. and you are only minutes away from the great laughs when you reach 9673 Firdale Ave.

Tickets for Female of the Species are available by calling 206-533-2000, or by visiting the TPT online box office at

— By Emily Hill

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