Runs through 10.31.10
59E59 Theater, 59 East 59th Street
Angela Church and Francis Benhamou in Sylvia Plath's Three Women, directed by Robert Shaw, at 59E59 Theatres.
BOTTOM LINE: Robert Shaw's direction breathes life into Sylvia's Plaths poetic and poignant words about women's relationship with conception.
Sylvia's Plath's Three Women presents three different views on conception as three women experience it over the course of a year. We see pregnancy from the perception of a happy wife who planned to conceive, from a student who finds herself in a pregnancy she doesn't want and isn't ready for, and from a secretary who wants a child but can't get pregnant. The direction is simple and honest, with very intimate staging, and that simplicity lets the ear focus on the beautiful imagery Plath uses to describe each woman's separate struggle. As their journeys unfold, the audience becomes entangled in their incredibly relatable and diverse stories.
Like it or not, pregnancy is everyone's common ground – we all come from a mother and a father - and creation is a theme that especially rings strong with women. Our bodies are literally built to procreate, and our brains are wired to have sex and babies on the mind way more than what's necessary. I know when I see a baby bjorn, my hormones rage and this usually tame part of my brain goes, "I want one, I want one!" In reality, at the tender age of twenty-something I can barely keep track of my keys and expanding my shoe collection takes priority over expanding my family. Regardless, it's part of being a woman, and babies unite every one of us whether we want one or not. This is perhaps why this story's message rings so strong, because it plays to the most basic nature and deepest fear. We are built to be mothers, so does being unable to procreate or take care of your child make you a failure? A bad person? Even when the timing is perfect, there is still so much fear and uncertainty - what happens when you mess up? Will simple choices like what paint color used in the kid's room or what formula you use perpetually shape his or her life?
Each character in Three Women is so relatable because they are our sisters or mothers or girlfriends or wives, they're every one of us. I hope to be the wife who wonders about the miracle of childbirth and feels mighty in being a temple of creation. I fear being the secretary who can't get pregnant, whose desperation intensifies each time her cycle comes around and reminds her of her failure, her disability. I related most to Kina Bermudez's character of the student, who is horrified by the large round women and screaming babies around her as she experiences the unexpected pregnancy during a time in her life that is suppose to be selfish. She is a smart and funny young woman flung onto a path she's unprepared for and unwilling to walk down, a slave to her body's reaction to sex. I felt like I knew her as well as I knew myself.
Sylvia Plath's Three Women depicts the radically different experience conception can offer at different times in one's life, and does so with such beautiful and sad grace I found myself tearing up over their separate struggles. It is hard to believe that all three stories were written by one woman, and is a sign of just how complicated and sad Plath's own short life was. It's a shame that Three Women was her only play, because the language is so refreshingly different from most of what's available even in today's theatre scene, and her work is undeniably timeless. At the end of this short show, I found myself singing Three Women's praises with my fellow audience members as we had just experienced something special together. I was truly moved by this beautiful play.
(Three Women plays at 59E59, 59 East 59th street between Madison and Park Avenues through October 31, 2010 as part at 59E59's Plethora of Plath. Performances are Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:15pm, Thursdays and Fridays at 8:15pm, Saturdays at 2:15pm and 8:15pm and Sunday at 3:15pm. Tickets are $35 and are available at 59E59.org or by calling 212.279.4200.)