Review: 'The Inferior Sex' Offers a Vivid 1970s Flashback
Will Demers READ TIME: 3 MIN.
1972. The war in Vietnam is going strong, there's a scandal associated with the current president called "Watergate," and the first female Black member of congress is campaigning for President of the United States. It's an incredibly dramatic time for our country, but seven women, populating a New York fashion magazine's staff have created a "feminists who love fashion" culture that's about to explode along with the political scene in America.
"The Inferior Sex" is playwright Jaqueline E. Lawton's fascinatingly comic view of a time in our country where women of all cultures, colors and races were fighting for equality. Indeed, in 2023 the fight unfortunately rages on, but Lawton gives us a hopeful view of the 1970s where the tides seemed to be turning in a more positive direction.
There's Sandra (Rachel Dulude) who runs her father's magazine the way she thinks he would wish; editor Joan (Rachael Warren) who's ready to explore more political articles and covers and hides a secret close to her heart. Fashion editor Vera (Anne Scurria) thinks she knows all of the tricks of the trade to sell magazines and pushes back at politics and fashion together. Penny (Madeline Barker) who is devoted to her husband, Alice (Shura Baryshnikov) the photographer who's willing to try new things clash with news reporter Gwen (Geri-Nikole Love) who would love to feature Shirley Chisolm (Jackie Davis) the aforementioned presidential candidate not only on the cover but a provocative interview, as well.
Rounding out the staff and excellent cast is Angelique Dina as Connie, the local housekeeper who's worked for Sandra's family for years, and Madeline Russell as Madeline, the chef whose creations fail on almost every level. Both of these characters provide the balance between drama and comedy in a way that is deftly handled by director Tatyana-Marie Carlo; weaving a fast paced tale of experimental journalism, racial strife and funny moments that truly delight. Highlighting some very dramatic historical touches are brief monologues by Davis as Chisolm; speaking the truths about our society's failings then, and now.
It is in these moments that whip us back from the fun moments to the tension in the magazine's offices; both Lawton's quippy dialogue and Caro's solid direction weave a tale of fashion, betrayal, successes and losses plus some tragic moments of hard truth. Huge props to set designer Sara Brown for bringing the 1970s into 2023 and Amanda Downing Carney for her spectacular costume design, which makes a splash with some fabulously retro outfits and hair. This cast not only wears them well, but you'll be convinced you're back in 1972.
Some of the best moments come from Scurria's Vera; she never disappoints, and Davis brings us some hard facts about racism and feminism. Russell's Madeline is absolutely hysterical, especially when she's finally forced to face the hard truth about her cooking skills. And Nikole-Love as Gwen delivers the most heartbreaking of performances, showing the uglier side of human nature. "The Inferior Sex" shows us that there is no such thing, and spins a humorous tale that shouldn't be missed.
"The Inferior Sex" is running through April 16th at Trinity Repertory Company 201 Washington St., Providence, RI 02903. For information or tickets, call 401-351-4242 or visit www.trinityrep.com.