Becomes a Woman is Brilliant! Show Review by Antonia Kasper Hinman –

Becomes a Woman is Brilliant! Show Review by Antonia Kasper Hinman –

Becomes a Woman is Brilliant! Show Review by Antonia Kasper Hinman

 (Photo left to right:  Pearl Rhein as Florry, Emma Pfitzer Price as Francie and Gina Daniels as Tessie. Photo credit: Todd Cerveris)

Brilliantly written, directed and acted, it’s hard to believe that Becomes a Woman, written by Betty Smith has never been published or produced…until now. Even if you are not enthusiastic for era/historical plays, this Mint Theater Company’s World Premiere production is very satisfying.

Though set in the 1930’s in Brooklyn, NY, the piece resonated with both me and my teenage daughter.  Becomes a Woman tackles widespread women’s issues that are still somewhat prevalent in our world today (especially in our current turbulent situation concerning Roe vs Wade).

The writing is impressive. Playwright, Betty Smith, (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) mirrors her own challenges in society like the main character, Francie Nolan. However, Smith’s real-life challenge in the 1920’s-1930’s was gaining higher education while also being acknowledged as an accredited female novelist and playwright. And though Francie’s priorities are different, the main character and the creator have a very similar pathos: A woman’s perseverance and belief in herself can survive any difficult situation, even in a predominately “man’s world.”

Britt Berke’s compelling direction rises to perfectly complement Betty Smith’s genius writing. Though the first act is mainly written for exposition of the characters, Berke’s detailed and profound staging and direction keeps the audience steadily intrigued throughout the entire three act play (Two and a half hours with two intermissions). 

The main character, a nineteen-year-old Francie Nolan (portrayed by the compelling Emma Pfitzer Price) works as a singer selling sheet music in an artificial flower shop, Kress’ Dime Store.  Attractive, yet, naïve, Francie has many gentlemen callers asking, “By the way, are you doing anything tonight, baby?” her comeback is a consistent, “Yes I am. And I’m busy every other night this week too. And next week.” Francie is fearful of dating because of the terrible things that may happen to her (or her heart) and possibly having to survive her overprotective father’s rath.  Florry (playfully portraited by Pearl Rhein), who accompanies Francie on the piano at the dime store, teases Francie for never entertaining dating.  Francie’s other co-worker, Tessie, (played by the endearing Gina Daniels) is happily dating Max (Scott Redmond) giving evidence that some relationships are good and loving. Later, Tessie discloses she had had a baby twenty years earlier with a man “technically” out of wedlock and the baby died soon after.

Enter Leonard Kress Jr., the charming rich store owner’s son (perfectly played by Peterson Townsend). The overwhelming mutual attraction ignites Francie to finally say “yes” to a date. Her first chance on love leads to an accidental pregnancy. Francie is rejected by both the father of her child, Leonard Jr,. and by her own strict father, Catholic blue collar police officer, Pa Nolan (powerfully played by Jeb Brown). Pa Nolan exposes his own hypocrisy when first meeting Leonard Jr. referring to his interactions with prostitutes while walking his beat.

“I was saying that I always give them a helping hand. I’m not one to kick a dog when he’s down. ‘There’s no use in being hard on a woman that makes a mistakes’, I says. I figure they might not be all to blame.”

Yet, Pa Nolan and the rest of the Nolan clan; Francie’s brothers Frankie and Johnny (played by Tim Webb and Jack Mastrianni) along with her mother, Ma Nolan (Antoinette LaVecchia) do just that. They kick Francie down and out, disgraced by the illegitimate pregnancy, when she obviously needs her family the most.

(Photo left to right: Jeb Brown as Pa Nolan and Emma Pfitzer Price as Francie. Photo credit: Todd Cerveris)

Outcast from her own family, the penniless and afraid Francie finds support in Tessie and bargains a short-term marriage from Leonard.  Leonard, the absentee husband and dad, finally pays a visit to Francie and the newborn only after being coerced by his own father, Leonard Kress Senior (impeccably portrayed by Duane Boutte).  The dignified Leonard Kress Senior seems impressed by Francie’s strength and valor.

But what will Francie Nolan do next? See the show to find out.

There are twists and turns in Smith’s play that give the story more complexity and depth. The entire company’s acting was excellent (including but not limited to): Philip Taratula as Mr. Malloon/Agent, Christopher Brown as Jimmy O’Neil, Madeline Seidman as Flapper and Jillian Louis as Woman.

Vicki Davis’s Set Design, Emilee McVey-Lee’s Costumes and Mary Louise Geiger’s Lighting were all admirably authentic in representing this beautiful time capsule piece.

Becomes a Woman is a real treat!  Of course, most men may not “get it”. However, most women will identify with this timeless story about an innocent and once fearful young lady blossoming into an unforgettable force of nature!

Performances: Tuesday thru Saturday 7:30pm

Wed, Sat & Sun at @ 2:30pm.  Now through March 18th.

NOTE: some dates don’t have performances. Please check listings. 

At New York City Center Stage II

131 West 55th Street (bet 6th & 7th Avenues) 



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