Sandra Tsing Loh is a well-known and respected essayist and playwright/performace artist. Her books have received Notable mention in The New York Times and she has performed her solo shows off-Broadway as well as on many regional theatre stages. Her latest work, The Madwoman in the Volvo, was developed at the Sundance Theatre Lab and Ojai Playwrights Conference. South Coast Repertory is currently presenting the World Premier production on its Julianne Argyros Stage.(photos by Debora Robinson)
The show reads and plays very much like most of Loh’s solo works—this time she examines women of a certain age and menopause. Her pithy and spot-on observations of the Southern California lifestyle elicit many knowing laughs from the audience. Everything from yoga and kale to Burning Man and marriage counselors get taken to task. Loh’s writing is very humorous as well as heartfelt and even touching at times. Midlife crises and extra-marital affairs, depression and parent/child relationships as well as the various effects and remedies for menopause all get examined in the concise, compact 90-minute intermission-less piece.
Loh shoulders most of the weight as she tells the tale navigating her middle age. Flashbacks to her mother’s menopausal depression shows a weird symmetry to her own. Lisa Peterson’s tight direction keeps the action moving smoothly and the story never loses focus. Although the play often feels like a solo performance piece, two wonderfully talented actresses–Caroline Aaron and Shannon Holt—create a varied plethora of characters, male and female, of a certain age and children, adding immensely to the hilarity and pathos.
South Coat Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr. in Costa Mesa. Ends Jan. 24. www.scr.org or 714-708-5555.