A Round Heeled Woman

A Round Heeled Woman

The Stage

Published Thursday 20 October 2011 at 10:31 by Sally Stott

"Before I turn 67 - next March - I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like," reads the advert retired Californian teacher Jane Juska placed in a New York literary magazine. It led to 63 responses and enough bizarre encounters for her to write a bestselling book, skilfully adapted for stage by writer and director Jane Prowse. With sharp, frequently explicit dialogue and larger-than-life characters, the production - which premiered in Miami - has the slick glossiness of a solid American sitcom and a plush set to match, but also portrays an older woman's sexuality in a way that is rarely seen on stage or screen. At times uncompromisingly graphic, it's also refreshingly honest and very funny.

Multiple Emmy and Golden Globe winner Sharon Gless gives a dazzling performance as misunderstood feminist Juska - who is all too often mistaken for a 'whore' by the men she meets - radiating such confidence and poise that she makes sex at 60-something not only seem OK, but aspirational. Juska's struggles parallel those of her literary idol, Anthony Trollope's Margaret Mackenzie - a delightfully straight-laced Beth Cordingly - but take a subversive twist when she falls in love with a young man who reminds her of her son. However, as the brilliantly versatile Michael Thomson demonstrates in both roles, the two couldn't be more different.

Gless is perhaps best known as half of 80s police detective duo Cagney & Lacey, but creates such a warm rapport with the audience through her wry asides that theatre seems like her natural home. The supporting cast are all excellent in multiple roles, including Barry McCarthy and Neil McCaul as a string of motley love interests and Jane Bertish as Juska's domineering mother.