Review: ‘Linda’ Personifies the Working Feminist/Out-of-Touch Mom
By Megan Wrappe, Contributing Writer, March 13, 2017
With recent public events like the Women’s March On Washington and A Day Without A Woman, there is no shortage of efforts to reinvigorate the feminist movement. Merely turning on a television these days allows the opportunity to see yet another woman speaking on the importance of women’s rights. Manhattan Theatre Club’s current production of Linda falls perfectly in line with the current feminist agenda.
Originally produced by London’s Royal Court Theater, this current production mounted by the Manhattan Theatre Club is directed by its Artistic Director, Lynne Meadow, and stars Janie Dee in the title role of ‘can-do-it-all mom’ Linda. Linda was a single mother when she started working for Swan Beauty Corporation almost twenty years ago, but now she’s an award-winning marketing business woman who wants to change the world. As a 50-something-year-old woman, she is compelled to bring focus and attention to her own demographic group.
With her upcoming beauty campaign offering new anti-aging creams targeted to women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, her pitch is to ensure these women are seen in a way unlike other campaigns featuring younger models. While Linda fights for the visibility of middle aged women in the media, her home life is slowly crumbling before her eyes.
Her first daughter, Alice (Jennifer Ikeda), has returned home after her college graduation. Walking around in a “skunk” onesie, she has no desire to contribute to society, driving her pantsuit-wearing mom up the wall. But unbeknownst to Linda, after Alice’s ex-boyfriend posted nude pictures of Alice all over their high school’s website, her life has never been the same. Suffering from depression for years, Alice is just looking for Linda to pay attention to her, but typically, Linda’s work comes first.
While Alice is tackling her own demons, Linda’s husband, Neil (Donald Sage Mackay), has accepted a new gig in a rock band fronted by a female lead singer half his age. Since Linda is constantly going here, there, and everywhere, instead of being present and available to her family, Neil’s world has shrunk a little bit. When his younger bandmate begins putting the moves on him, his younger self completely takes over and we find Linda coming home to discover the young girl dressed in one of Neil’s t-shirts in their kitchen.
Then there’s Linda’s youngest daughter, Bridget (Molly Ranson), who’s the observer in the family and sees everyone else juggling their own issues. Bridget’s current dilemma is finding an appropriate audition piece for her upcoming high school drama class production. But being Linda’s daughter, any ol’ female Shakespeare character just won’t do, and she goes back and forth in choosing a monologue from either Hamlet or King Lear.
The story follows a family in their everyday trials and tribulations, but what makes this story different is the passion and drive that Linda has for her career and her family, even if she won’t admit it. As a business woman, Linda doesn’t allow herself to get emotional very often, but when her walls begin to topple under work pressure and what’s going on at home, we see just how hard she must work to keep it all together. Maintaining composure is something everyone deals with, some on a daily basis, and Linda’s eventual breakdown signals that under her pantsuit, we all share many of the same issues.
Linda, presented by the Manhattan Theatre Club at New York City Center Stage 1, 131 West 55th Street; running through April 2, 2017. By Penelope Skinner. Directed by Lynne Meadow; scenic design by Walt Spangler; costume design by Jennifer Von Mayrhauser; lighting design by Jason Lyons; original music and sound design by Fitz Patton; dialect coach: Ben Furey. Cast: Janie Dee (Linda), Meghann Fahy (Stevie), Molly Griggs (Amy), Jennifer Ikeda (Alice), Maurice Jones (Luke), Donald Sage Mackay (Neil), Molly Ranson (Bridget), John C. Vennema (Dave).
Cover: (l. to r.) Jennifer Ikeda (as ‘Alice’), Molly Ranson (as ‘Bridget’) and Janie Dee (as ‘Linda’) in ‘Linda;’ photo: Richard Termine.