Onstage, ‘Designing Women’ Sheds the Shoulder Pads, Not Its Politics

The present wasn’t totally progressive. Its sole character of coloration, Anthony Bouvier (Meshach Taylor), had a subordinate position within the agency, and queer characters have been uncommon. However it gave its characters divergent attitudes, insisting that the expertise of girls wasn’t uniform. In a logline, the characters may need come throughout as stereotypes — hardass, bimbo, pragmatist, naïf — but as performed by Carter, Delta Burke, Annie Potts and Jean Smart, that they had sensible minds and massive hearts. Whilst they fought, they supported each other.

That’s what makes this theatrical model of “Designing Women” greater than an try and capitalize on acquainted mental property. As a tv present, it straddled the political divide, permitting each progressive and conservative girls to see themselves represented, glamorously. These divides are wider now. But when these characters can nonetheless discuss to 1 one other onstage, possibly viewers members can proceed these conversations offstage, with or with out repartee.

Although TheaterSquared introduced the present in early 2020, Bloodworth-Thomason didn’t begin writing it till this yr, in the end amassing some 7,000 pages. (These voices actually wouldn’t shut up.) The September draft flaunted her practiced model, a rapier wit with a bedazzled deal with, and included a number of callbacks for devoted followers, like a riff on Julia’s “the lights went out in Georgia” speech.

The feminism nonetheless isn’t particularly intersectional, even because the agency now features a co-owner who’s Black and queer, Anthony’s cousin Cleo (Carla Renata). However the script has up to date its politics. The primary line has Julia instructing Hayley (Kim Matula), the brand new receptionist, in temperature checks for purchasers. “If they refuse, kick ’em out,” Julia says. “If they’re wearing a MAGA hat, don’t let ’em in.” Within the background a voice mail message performs, calling Julia a “lying socialist slut.”

Bloodworth-Thomason desires of a tour of the South for the play and an eventual berth on Broadway. However it’s dialogue like this that explains why she and Thomason selected TheaterSquared for the tryout. Washington County, which encompasses Fayetteville, went for Trump in 2020, although by a somewhat narrow margin — 50.39 p.c to Trump, and 46.49 p.c to Joseph R. Biden’s ticket — and the theater attracts spectators who don’t all vote the identical means.

“I know that not everybody who walks in the door would automatically agree with me in a conversation over a beer,” Miller informed me. However the theater intentionally packages performs that immediate these conversations. And the cafe has 16 native beers on faucet.

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