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Noel Coward with yoga pants

February 5, 2010 |  8:22 am

That's my review, and I'm sticking with it.

The play opening next week at the Geffen Playhouse, ''The Female of the Species,'' is a Cowardian drawing-room comedy with a touch of Feydeau, updated and relocated to an upstate New York country house, and centered on Margot Mason, a celebrity feminist intellectual author played pitch-perfectly by Annette Bening.

Margot has a touch of feminist pioneer Germaine Greer -- not surprising, because, like Greer, the playwright, Joanna Murray-Smith, is Australian. Bening makes Margot her own, not only as she stalks the stage but when she's shackled to her desk -- not merely figuratively, as all writers are, but quite literally. Sounds kinkier than it is.

I saw a preview with some women friends who enjoyed it hugely, which made me wonder whether it was the stage equivalent of a chick flick, but I kept glancing around the theater. The men were laughing too, maybe more than the women.

The play's an equal-opportunity skewerer of some of feminism's pretenses and of feminism's foes and evolutions, too, embodied in the other four characters: Margot's onetime student, Molly, played by Merritt Wever; her housewife daughter, Tess, hilariously and hysterically performed by Mireille Enos, and her perfect/perfectly awful son-in-law Bryan, played by David Arquette; as well as Frank, Josh Stamberg's testosterone hurricane cab driver and Theo, Margot's agent, played by Julian Sands, a Merchant Ivory heartthrob in ''A Room with a View.''

The play was first performed in Murray-Smith's native Australia, but its ideas and characters are chameleon enough and universal enough to translate to Los Angeles or London. Evidently it started out as a drama, but as Murray-Smith says, it stubbornly insisted on being a comedy -- thankfully.

And I'm serious about the yoga pants.

-- Patt Morrison

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