Becky Allen is one of the headliners. The name of the show is Hot Flashes. It doesn’t take much imagination for a greater New Orleans audience, especially those over 50-years-old, to know they’re in for an evening of ribald, raunchy comedy focusing on the female aging process. If you’re in that age range category, however, you might be surprised at the poignant relevance of the Sandi Roads Productions and Le Petit Theatre’s cabaret production.
The CRS (Can’t Remember Stuff/S**t – fill in the blanks to your liking) generation takes a trip down menopause lane as four friends gather in Hannah’s Lava Lounge South to celebrate another friend’s 50th birthday while. Written by Dori Appel and Carolyn Myers and directed by multi-talented Dane Rhodes, Hot Flashes is a comical glimpse of the conversations, antics and out-of-sequence thought processes of the mature woman.
Do women really chatter and dramatize life’s passages with frivolity and frankness? Yes, because when you’re that age – throw in a few drinks to loosen the tongue even more – does it really matter what you say? Sandy Bravender’s character Rosalie succinctly says it, “It’s a privilege to be outrageous.”
It is an outrageous evening, highlighted by an outrageous cast. Filled with pre-and post-menopause gags and clichés, peppered with references to New Orleans’ people, places and events, and a few statements that might tug at your own aging experience, the production has its ups and down, high points and one way too slow scenario simulating the fertilization process. But hey, it is a reflection of life and that’s how it goes.
Before curtain, you’ll enjoy perusing the set and perhaps buy a drink or two from the on-set working bar (it’s open for business and cleverly staffed by Denise O’Sullivan throughout the show). Josh Palmer and Kyle Hebert’s set and lights are apropos for an establishment named the Lava Lounge South. The predominantly red and black set, with red lava lamps, red and black juke box, beaded curtain and curved bar takes you back to the neighborhood bars of 30-years ago. It’s safe, friendly, a great place to hang out with the girls and just tacky enough to enhance the laughs.
Rhodes directs beloved New Orleans’ actresses in the lead roles – Becky Allen (Carol), Sandy Bravender (Rosalie), Karen Hebert (Bobbi) and Cathie Chopin Weinstein (Abby). Each one has the opportunity to make a grand entrance and each has a chance to be center stage for a few amusing antics.
Allen doesn’t have to do too much to garner a laugh. She utters “dawlin” or “Gawd” and the audience breaks out in hysterics. A slapstick scene with plastic wrap goes on a tad too long for my taste, although it seemed it could have lasted even longer for most of the predominantly female crowd. Her character’s inability to remember things and where she put them is amusing while highlighting menopausal CRS and perhaps the fear of Alzheimer’s disease.
Bravender, the Sandi part of Sandi Roads Productions, is conversational and slow-paced throughout Hot Flashes. If you don’t know someone who talks, acts and looks like this character, you are not living in New Orleans. Early-on in the show, she takes it slow and easy, discussing ceremonial plans to bury women’s things, from Kotex pads to birth control packages, in a coffin shaped box she wood-worked herself. It’s a funny commentary on a woman’s reproductive passage, medical advances in the last 30-40 years and an “hallelujah” that menopause brings less blood and tears.
Hebert portrays the career woman, the revolutionary and the over-50 woman who knows her experience, talent and intelligence are of high-value. Unfortunately, the younger generation doesn’t see her that way. Her dancing duel with Lava Lounge Dancers Nicole Eckrick and Kristin Poppich is fantastic, not only showcasing Hebert’s agility but also defining the competitive spirit between Baby Boomers and the younger kids, who have no clue how much the Boomer women cleared the way for them. “We are the Beatles, you are the Backstreet Boys” Hebert’s characters yells to the snotty little youngsters. That’s so right-on, so funny – and so true. Fifty years from now, the Beatles will still be discussed and revered. Can you name the Backstreet Boys?
Weinstein, in my opinion, is the star of the show. Perhaps she had better lines, or lines more relevant to me, but her delivery is natural, clear, and a pleasure to watch. Whether her butt is hanging out of an obstetrician’s paper dress or she’s walking like a duck, there’s evidence of someone who enjoys entertaining with a keen ability to do so. When she delivers a line about feeling “less visible” in recent times, there are subtle nods of “yes” throughout the audience. In a humorous vein, Weinstein delivers the message that mature women often feel like “Mr. Cellophane.”
The Hot Flashes’ women won’t accept invisibility. They are out to make a statement and gosh, darn it, someone is going to listen or laugh about it.
Back Row Facts:
Length of show – under 90 minutes, no intermission. Curtain is 7:30 p.m.
Language – on the raunchy side, but that’s to be expected and the only way to handle the female aging process.
Lewd factor – of course!
Family fitness - this is show especially for the older woman, particularly Baby Boomers. Older-than-Boomers women may feel uncomfortable with reproductive jokes and vulgar language; younger gals just won’t get it, and men have no clue.
It’s a puzzlement! How old do you have to be to have the Vieux Carre Commission approve you for a facelift?