Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Dresbach's play focuses on five of the women in this bridge group including her mother Shirley. Set in the living room of her mother's Phoenix home and taking place over a twenty year period, starting in the early 1980s, 3 No Trump focuses on the good times and bad times in these women's lives. They struggle, bicker and cling to each other as they endure and relish the impact and joys of sickness and health, marriages, divorces and grandchildren.
While the play is a fun and ultimately moving portrait of these women and has realistic dialogue, there are a few small problems. It doesn't have much of a plot beyond recounting the daily events of these women's lives and doesn't really deliver richly detailed characters that could make it truly exceptional, though it still makes for a fine play that has many laughs and a beautiful poignancy. Also, there are many world events that occurred during the period the play is set yet none of the major ones, including the impact of September 11th, are mentioned, though there are plenty of local Arizona references that are discussed as well as used in projections during the scene changes. The decision not to even have any references to these world events, but still include local happenings, keeps the play slightly more grounded and less worldly.
While there are some shortcomings, Dresbach has created lovable characters with natural dialogue and does well to demonstrate the strength that these relationships create and to effectively show how death impacts the women in a very realistic way. It reminded me of Steel Magnolias but instead of being set in a southern beauty parlor it is set around a Southwest living room card table.
Director Debra K. Stevens has assembled a talented cast and stages the action quite effectively to ensure the comic moments deliver big laughs and the more emotional scenes resonate with a moving tenderness. As Phyllis, Susan Sindelar brings a feistiness to this no-nonsense woman who says exactly what she feels. Jodie Weiss is lovely as the frugal Shirley while Kimberly Phelps is rough and lively as the Phoenix Suns loving Marge. Marylou Stephens is very good as the worrying, concerned and motherly Sarah, while Kandyce Hughes adds moments of style and grace as the always impeccably dressed, elegant and refined Bobby Jo. It is a true ensemble play with each actress delivering an effective portrayal with naturally delivered dialogue.
Creative elements are quite effective. Brett Aiken's set design, which features a blend of orange and tan furnishings, a large macramé wall hanging and period light fixtures and furniture, superbly create a space that evokes the late 1970s / early 1980s living rooms that many of us grew up in and know very well. Cari Smith's period costumes and Brenda Goodenberger's hair and make-up designs work well to portray these very different women as they age over the twenty-year span of the show. Jeff A. Davis' lighting design is effective in creating both the mostly nighttime moments in Shirley's living room as well as highlighting the various women who speak the journal entries between the scene changes. Petey Swartz's props design adds an abundance of fun set pieces.
For Shirley, Phyllis, Marge, Sarah and Bobby Jo, their shared love of bridge is the glue that holds them together and helps them form a sisterhood filled with deep bonds. We all have something in our lives like a bridge club that helps us create relationships with others and lasting friendships with people we know we can count on. While 3 No Trump may not be a completely perfect play, it does feature realistic people and dialogue and characters that are identifiable. Theater Works' cast, direction and creative aspects deliver a production that brings these five women and their shared experiences vibrantly to life.
3 No Trump runs through January 29th, 2017, at Theater Works at 8355 West Peoria Avenue in Peoria. Tickets can be ordered at theaterworks.org or by calling 623-815-7930.
Directed by Debra K. Stevens