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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Girls Talk

It starts out as froth but Roger Kumble's Girls Talk, without missing a beat or losing its place in the social scheme of things, segues into serious territory. These four girls know exactly who they are, for the most part, and where they are is very important to them.

Writer/director Kumble has an ear for realism and a seedy bent for humor that stand him in good stead. The pace is perfect and the girls hold the stage, even when nothing much is happening.

Where the girls are is Bel Air, California. The time is now and the house belongs to Lori (Brooke Shields), a former screenwriter turned housewife and mommy. She's frazzled and non-plussed when former screenwriting partner Claire (Constance Zimmer) walks in. Claire is in tailored business casual, as opposed to Scarlett (Nicole Paggi), a feather-brained blonde, and Jane (Andrea Bendewald), a domineering new mother or "mommy maven," as she prefers. The fifth female is Zuza (Eileen Galino), the Latina maid who overworks not understanding the front door phone.

Although nothing momentous occurs, the play burbles along until late in the second act when conflict rears its ugly head. Claire has gotten Lori a splendid new screenwriting job for Oprah, no less, but it turns out that the first meeting is scheduled for the same day as the fundraiser for daughter Emily's pre-school which she co-chairs. Claire refuses to move Oprah and Jane hangs a heavy trip on Lori about her daughter's Whole Future hanging on this pre-school shindig. What's a mother to do?

The cast makes it work, especially Brooke Shields as Lori. She's realistic and loveable while working as hard at being a successful Mom as she did at screenwriting. A fit of hysterics nearly ends it but there's a twist. The final curtain brings a welter of familiar noise.

Constance Zimmer brings a welcome acerbic note to Claire. The only singleton in the bunch, her career comes first and her choice is clear. Scarlett is patronized by Jane who goads her to tears for not being Jewish enough. Paggi is desperately well versed in the lore of her adopted religion and that small wild scene is a tour de force for the actress. As Jane, Bendewald is the girl you love to hate. She never overplays the part which she makes her own with supercilious pseudo-charm.

Tom Buderwitz's splendid set is Mommy's lived-in Bel Air. The play is sly but there are insights. When Lori calls Jane on the bitch she is, when Lori confronts Clare with the truth about their relative talents and when she faces herself and her conflict between career and Mother's Club, the play blisters with life. Clare stands up to her, which is welcome. Lori is not so sweet and she doesn't have it all her own way. In fact, her friends are bewildering. Neither Jane nor Scarlett, funny as they are, seems to be Lori's intellectual equal.

The ending is a puzzlement. But the 90 minute trip is a delight and sizzles to a crisp.

Girls Talk
Written and directed by Roger Kumble
Cast: Brooke Shields (Lori), Eileen Galindo (Zuza), Constance Zimmer (Claire), Nicole Paggi (Scarlett), Andrea Bendewald (Jane).
Set Designer: Tom Buderwitz
Lighting Designer: Christie Wright Gilmore
Costume Designer: Ann Closs-Farley
Sound Designer: Doug Newell
When: March 18-April 24, 2011
Where: Lee Strasberg Theatre, 7936 Santa Monica, West Hollywood. Reservations: (818) 508-1754.
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on March 18, 2011.
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