‘Madwomen of the West’ Off Broadway Review: Four Famous Faces Stage a Wild Reunion

Robert HoflerThe Wrap

Melanie Mayron, Marilu Henner, Brooke Adams and Caroline Aaron headline a birthday brunch from hell.

Madwomen of the West Off Broadway
“Madwomen of the West” (Credit: Carol Rosegg)

If it has been a while since you’ve seen Melanie Mayron, Marilu Henner, Brooke Adams or Caroline Aaron onscreen or on TV, so it’s nice to report that they are all having a very good time together at the Actors Temple Theatre in Sandra Tsing Loh’s comedy “Madwomen of the West,” which had its New York City premiere Monday.

At their very best, these four actors make the case that everyone should be a post-menopausal woman. At her very best, Loh keeps the women at each other’s throat to great comic effect for most of this one-act 100-minute play.

Only occasionally along the way, and especially at the end, do these four feisty female characters play nice with each other and, in effect, dilute the fun. The four of them are most engaging when playing a drunk (Adams), a show-off (Henner), a slob (Mayron) and a bigot (Aaron).

Under the genially loopy direction of Thomas Caruso, “Madwomen of the West” is an extremely relaxed evening in the theater. Aaron kicks things off by telling a story about the Actors Temple, which is also a functioning synagogue on Fridays, and how during rehearsals of Paul Mazursky’s 1993 movie, “The Pickle,” Shelley Winters left the company briefly, with Aaron in tow, to observe Yom Kippur at this synagogue in Hell’s Kitchen.

Later, when the play finally gets going and a line doesn’t get a laugh, Aaron informs us that the comment got a big response in Los Angeles. And “Madwomen” may also be the first play at which the audience gets to vote on whether there’s going to be an intermission or not.

Since Aaron’s blousy, outspoken character Marilyn really hates Henner’s svelte, super-successful character Zoey, and since Marilyn also smokes, cheats on her diet and has problems with gender nonconforming pronouns, it goes without saying she walks away with most of the laughs. Frankly, Aaron turns mugging into an art form. Watching her react to Henner’s monologue on Zoey’s vulva is a comic highpoint not to be missed.

Mayron occasionally steals the spotlight back in her role as the pajama-wearing lesbian of the group, who also has the comic advantage of not having spoken to her transgender child for a few days. To escape the toxicity of her friends on her birthday, Mayron’s Claudia dials up an Uber that never arrives.

That’s unfortunate for Claudia, since it means she has to be there for Loh’s sitcom let’s-all-get-along finale.