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Theater: A Round-Heeled Woman
by Tracy Baim.
2011-01-19

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I was fortunate enough to be able to see Sharon Gless in the world-premiere of A Round-Heeled Woman in San Francisco in January of 2010, and even more fortunate to see it again in Miami Jan. 13, 2011. This allowed for a comparison between the two productions, and a great opportunity to see how creative teams revise and improve their work.

Gless, who has worked for years to bring A Round-Heeled Woman to the stage, is charming and wonderful as the star of the play, based on the true story of writer Jane Juska. Written for the stage and directed seamlessly by Jane Prowse, this new production has been extended at the GableStage in Miami, and I am hoping the next stop will be New York or London, or maybe even Chicago.

I did enjoy the San Francisco production and Gless's co-stars there, but the Miami production has really taken the play to a new level. The set is much stronger, and the co-stars overall more enjoyable in their multi-role performances.

Gless (Cagney & Lacey, Queer as Folk, Burn Notice) is on stage for the 90-minute play, with no breaks. She plays Juska at age 66, when she placed an ad in the New York Review of Books newspaper seeking to "have a lot of sex with a man I like" before her next birthday. As you can imagine, Juska received a wide range of responses, and she filtered them into "yes," "no," and "maybe" piles.

We watch as Gless goes on numerous dates, risking her mental and physical safety, putting it on the line for love. The staging is terrific, and the supporting actors are a treat to watch. Antonio Amadeo is a standout in his four characters, including playing both a young potential date as well as Juska's son Andy.

Kim Ostrenko is fun to watch as a modern-day friend and the character Miss Margaret Mackenzie from a book by Trollope, one of Juska's favorite writers. Laura Turnball also plays a friend and Juska's mother, among other roles. Two older men, Stephen Anthony and Howard Elfman, also play numerous characters, including various dates for Juska.

These actors are a great support for Gless, who carries the play with charisma, humor, sensitivity and passion. If you can't catch it in Miami, let's hope it is staged in another city very soon.

A group of Florida lesbians, coordinated by former Chicago activist Toni Armstrong Jr., attended the Jan. 13 show together. Toni was among the producers on Hannah Free, a feature film I was co-executive producer on, starring Sharon Gless. So it was a fun reunion for some of those involved in the film. And a special treat that night: both Jane Juska and movie legend Liv Ullmann were in the audience. Ullmann came on stage to congratulate both Gless and Juska after, and said how much she enjoyed the play.

See www.gablestage.org .


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