Review: William Russell.
Later-life sex with Trollope thrown in.
At the centre of this witty, wise, perceptive play about a woman's voyage of discovery Sharon Gless – on stage throughout – gives a superb performance. Forget detective Christine Cagney, the role she is best known for here. Gless plays Jane Juska, a 67-year-old retired high school teacher living in Orinda, a satellite town across the bay from San Francisco, who after thirty years of celibacy – she is divorced, and also estranged from her son – places an advertisement in the New York Review of Books.
It says she wants to have a lot of sex with a man she likes and if he wants to talk first, Trollope works for her. Men reply and Jane embarks on her odyssey. The men she meets are perhaps just as mixed up as she is, and possibly, because in the end Jane is looking for love, more interested in sex. So it is not all laughter.
Written and directed with great skill by Jane Prowse this is a most rewarding evening. Maybe it gets a little Californian in the end – what seems to solve Jane's problems is re-establishing relationships with her son and making some new – and no longer necessarily sexual - friends among the men. That this over-the-hill woman should decide her sex life was not over and did something about it may be alarming for some, but if that is what rescues her from a lifeless life why not?
Into the tale, which Gless narrates, Prowse has woven, to great effect, Trollope's novel Miss Mackenzie, about a 19th-century woman who also rebelled. Jane Bertish, Beth Cordingly, Barry McCarthy, Neil McCaul and Michael Thomson play all the people in Juska's life quite brilliantly. The Riverside Studios has a hit on its hands.