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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Marcus Center Plays Home to ‘Sassy Mamas’

Theater Review

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As the stigma begins to lift on older women dating younger men, traditional gender roles start to shift as well. Hansberry-Sands Theatre Company explores some of the implications in its production of Celeste Bedford Walker’s Sassy Mamas. This comic drama explores the relationships of three successful women dating far younger men in Washington, D.C.

The script doesn’t often reach beyond the most obvious older-woman/younger-man scenarios. But Debrah Neal is charming as Jo Billie Massey, a hospital administrator who painstakingly designs a non-marital relationship between herself and a janitor at the hospital. And Diana Patterson is enjoyable as a woman who offers a younger man a deeper intellectual connection than he would receive from a younger woman.

Director Willie Abney does an impressive job of making these two stories interesting, though Sassy Mamas is at its best with the story of Wilhemina. Equity actress Marvette Knight plays a White House cabinet member who falls for a younger man named Wes (Jason Townes), who happens to be a journalist. The difficulties of a burgeoning romance between an older woman and a younger man are further complicated by their positions in the machinery of Washington, D.C., and careers that sometimes force them to leave town (or even the country) on very short notice. The complexity of Wilhemina and Wes’ relationship, aided by the chemistry between Knight and Townes, is captivating enough to carry the play. If the other two stories had been as solid, Sassy Mamas would be even more satisfying.

Hansberry-Sands’ production of Sassy Mamas runs through May 16 at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.

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