The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings


SEARCH CurtainUp



Etcetera and
Short Term Listings



LA/San Diego






Free Updates
Writing for CurtainUp NYC Weather
A CurtainUp Review

Fefu and Her Friends
By Jenny Sandman
Woman is not a human being. She is: 1, a mystery. 2, another species. 3, as yet undefined. 4, unpredictable . . . Women's spirit is sexual. That is why after coitus they dwell in nefarious feelings. Because that is their natural habitat . . . And [women] take those feelings with them to the afterlife where they corrupt the heavens, and they are sent to hell where through suffering they may shed those feelings and return to earth as a man. --Julia

Though written in 1977, the message of Fefu and Her Friends remains ever the same: women don't know what to do with feminism. Or rather, they don't know what to do with themselves. It's a strange, unsettling play, not least because the strong women characters are at a loss with each other and with themselves. Without a man to center around, they disintegrate into cattiness and then madness.

Fefu is probably deranged to begin with. She "pretends" to shoot her husband with a gun that may or may not be loaded. She likes men better than women and in fact finds women "loathsome." Fefu and her friends are a group of society women, circa 1935. They're bored and affected in the manner of wealthy women who have too much free time.

The play begins with plans for a charity benefit being planned at Fefu's New England estate. During the second part, four different scenes play simultaneously in four different rooms. The audience is led around to each in no particular order. In the final act, the women turn giggly, then bitchy, and then everything takes a tragic turn.

Though not a realistic play neither is it strictly allegorical. Director Krissy Smith sums up the dark imagery and emotional backwash at the heart of the play as "a provocative statement about women to this day." Fornes' self-loathing, self-doubting women only gradually come to understand the glossy surface and the dark underbelly that is the dual reality of their lives. It's thought-provoking but challenging, not for those who enjoy escapism in their theatre.

The play has been given a fine production with a uniformly strong cast, led by Nikki Alikakos as Fefu and Elizabeth Howard as the emotional linchpin, Julia. Julia does a fantastic job with the long monologue in Part 2 that sums up the entire play. The women's personalities compete with each other but that's the point. Director Krissy Smith knows her stuff and keeps the action fresh and crisp.

The elaborate set makes very inventive use of the small downstairs space. The main playing area, the living room, is backed up against the entry staircase, so that the audience must cross over the set to get to the seats. The other rooms (utilized in Part 2) are divided with black curtains and have been given just as much care as the main space: The back porch has a hanging porch swing and a real patch of dirt; the kitchen has a number of period appliances; Julia's bedroom is as claustrophobic as she feels it to be and her wheelchair is as authentic as the rich period costumes. The set's only pitfall is that because the rooms are so close together, the four scenes in Part 2 compete with each other, making it hard to hear one over the other.

All in all this is an excellent production of a play that's hard to understand and with a pretty discouraging its message. Consider it as an antidote to frivolous, overly saccharine holiday fare.

Written by Maria Irene Fornes
Directed by Krissy Smith
With Nikki Alikakos, Elizabeth Howard, Margarita Martinez, Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris, Courtney Reynolds, Sasha Cucciniello, Nicola Riske and Kiki Allgeier
Lighting Design by Garin Marshall
Costume Design by Sarah Latty
Sound Design by Damien Lennon
Running time: Two hours with one ten-minute intermission
The Culture Project, 45 Bleecker Street; 212-352-3101
12/2/04 through 12/19/04; Tuesday through Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 7 pm. All tickets $15.
Reviewed by Jenny Sandman based on December 3rd performance
Broadway Musicals: The 101 Greatest Shows of All Time
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.

Tales From Shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
Our Review

At This Theater Cover
At This Theater

Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide

Ridiculous! The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam

metaphors dictionary cover
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.

The Broadway Theatre Archive


©Copyright 2004, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from