A Woman’s Scorn: Irony And the Disillusion of Gender
Phyllis Hammerow, Patrick Vaughn, and Dorothy Zbornak
The Miami Community Players
Burt Reynolds Dinner Theater, Wed-Friday, 4pm
Review by Ryerson B. Colby, The New York Times
When my editor sent me to Miami for opening night of this play, I knew it would be subversive. I had heard the buzz surrounding it and the rumors were flying. The characters were all played by senior citizens, the actors would read their lines from the audience, the third act was just an old Italian widow weeping in the parking lot. What I didn’t expect was for the play to be five minutes long.
A Woman’s Scorn is a play about how the past haunts us: both a heathen’s past and a bygone era. Patrick Vaughn plays Biff, a man who arrives at this small town inhabited by elderly women in circle skirts. Vaughn plays him as an egoist and a nihilist. He declares his love for fair Josie, played with the utmost camp by Phyllis Hammerow, in front of the annual July Fourth picnic. Josie doubts his love, and this quickly ushers in the decline of reality. and we are in what I can only call a world David Lynch would love. The sheriff, brilliantly played in drag by Zbornak, hassles Biff with a sexual tension that breaks through the male archetype of its era.
Two members of the town begin a conversation stage left about their exploits with Biff, but not Biff the character, the actor playing Biff. This meta-reference is deserving of a Charlie Kaufman-esque accolade. The confessions of these anonymous women (and tell me, what women do not feel anonymous) drive the small town crowd into a frenzy, with the women all claiming sexual interactions with Biff, finally sending Biff away into what only can be interpreted in hell, much like Don Giovonni in the infamous operatic Commandatore scene.
After five minutes, the awkward bows started, and the audience was uncomfortable and unsure of what to do, as such mainstream and amateur audiences wouldn’t expect such a non-narrative structure. It turned the simple narrative on its head! I wanted to yell at them, but they were already shuffling off to their cars. Disappointingly, there was no Italian widow in their paths.
I can only help that this production finds a home in Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival, where its genius can be more appreciated. Not since Shia LeBoeuf’s #IAMSORRY performance art piece have I questioned the very nature of art. And life.