25 October 2011
Sharon Gless puts the sex back into sexagenarian
When she was the blond half of the eighties cop duo Cagney and Lacey, Sharon Gless helped to foster a tough type of female archetype. Now as she co-produces and stars in this adaptation of Jane Juska's memoir about finding her libido aged 66, she's helping to put the sex back in to sexagenarian.
This is a slick production of an amusing yet awkward play that might work better as a one woman show that it almost is anyway, or the romantic comedy that is surely aspires to be. Yet strong acting and a refreshingly frank depiction of female sexuality make for an effective evening. Gless' Jane is a retired teacher in liberal Berkeley, California who has spent the last 30 years getting her jollies from literature alone. Everything changes when she puts an ad in the New York Review of Books: "Before I turn 67 – next March – I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first Trollope works for me". No surprise – for us, anyway – that the respondents are well up for the sex , not so fussed about 19th-century novelists (the title, Victorian slang for prostitute, also plays on Jane's liberation). Gless traverses the wide sitcom –bright set meeting a handful of dodgy men, including an 82 year old who shags her and then dumps her and the New Yorker who declares his love but won't give up his girlfriend.
Jane is a world away from tired archetypes of senior sexuality, But she is self-involved and we can't always sympathise in her disappointment in such palpably unsuitable partners. Sentiment can set into Jane Prowse's script and direction which only has eyes for Jane really and the psychodramatic interludes between Jane and her estranged son are rotten.
Yes, when the show retains its wit it works. Michael Thomson is versatile as the younger men, Barry McCarthy and Neil McCaul are amusing but credible as the older lovers. Jane Bertish and Beth Cordingly keep it slick and snappy as Jane's rom-com style girlfriends and Cordingly impresses in her cameos as Trollope's Miss Mackenzie offering Jane her own misadventures in dating.
This is star vehicle for Gless who holds the stage with authority and ease – which is just as well as she is never off it. And if you can coo a line like "I love the feeling of being filled up" without making a British audience snigger, you must be doing something right.