Onstage, ‘Designing Women’ Sheds the Shoulder Pads, Not Its Politics


The show wasn’t completely progressive. Its sole character of colour, Anthony Bouvier (Meshach Taylor), had a subordinate function within the agency, and queer characters were uncommon. But it gave its characters divergent attitudes, insisting that the experience of girls wasn’t uniform. In a logline, the characters may need come throughout as stereotypes — hardass, bimbo, pragmatist, naïf — but as performed by Carter, Delta Burke, Annie Potts and Jean Smart, they’d good minds and massive hearts. Even as they fought, they supported each other.

That’s what makes this theatrical model of “Designing Women” more than an attempt to capitalize on acquainted mental property. As a television show, it straddled the political divide, permitting each progressive and conservative ladies to see themselves represented, glamorously. Those divides are wider now. But if these characters can still speak to 1 one other onstage, perhaps viewers members can proceed these conversations offstage, with or with out repartee.

Though TheaterSquared introduced the show in early 2020, Bloodworth-Thomason didn’t start writing it till this yr, in the end amassing some 7,000 pages. (Those voices actually wouldn’t shut up.) The September draft flaunted her practiced model, a rapier wit with a bedazzled deal with, and included a couple of callbacks for devoted followers, like a riff on Julia’s “the lights went out in Georgia” speech.

The feminism still isn’t particularly intersectional, even because the agency now includes a co-owner who’s Black and queer, Anthony’s cousin Cleo (Carla Renata). But the script has up to date its politics. The first line has Julia instructing Hayley (Kim Matula), the new receptionist, in temperature checks for purchasers. “If they refuse, kick ’em out,” Julia says. “If they’re wearing a MAGA hat, don’t let ’em in.” In the background a voice mail message plays, calling Julia a “lying socialist slut.”

Bloodworth-Thomason goals of a tour of the South for the play and an eventual berth on Broadway. But it’s dialogue like this that explains why she and Thomason selected TheaterSquared for the tryout. Washington County, which encompasses Fayetteville, went for Trump in 2020, although by a considerably slender margin — 50.39 percent to Trump, and 46.49 percent to Joseph R. Biden’s ticket — and the theater attracts spectators who don’t all vote the same way.

“I know that not everybody who walks in the door would automatically agree with me in a conversation over a beer,” Miller told me. But the theater intentionally applications plays that immediate these conversations. And the cafe has 16 native beers on faucet.

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